March 2012


A-Z ChallengeSo from Sunday I’ll be doing the A-Z Challenge again.

Last year I wrote about writing and about social anxiety. You can read my posts (going backwards) here.

This year, influenced by others who blogged about places last year, I’ve chosen the topic of Jerusalem.

See you on Sunday!

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Hubby and I have been married for a long time. In fact we’re just coming up to another anniversary – 34 years.

For most of that time, we shared a bed – just the two of us. Now, we still share a bed, but we’ve been joined by two others.

He recently got an iphone. Now he listens to things on it and reads things. So it has joined our bed. And the other day I decided that if I’m ever going to read the books that have accumulated in the kindle application on my laptop PC, I’m going to have to take PC to bed with me.

So now we’re a foursome.

4's company

I never really thought I’d succeed in writing 100k words in 100 days, which was Sally Quilford’s challenge starting on 1st January. But I joined to see what I’d manage. And Sally wrote:

As far as I’m concerned, if you get to 9th April having written 30k words, and it’s more than you’d normally write, you’ve done well!

So today I passed the 30k mark and I’m delighted.

I did well!

Happy Birthday!Three years ago, I ventured out into the world, scared of what I might find.

I’m so glad I did.

Both involve me but are mainly about others.

Firstly, I’ve been helping to edit a series of novels by David Rory O’Neill. The novels are all connected but can all be read alone. Together, they span over a century and are full of very reachable characters, who overcome personal issues and historical events, keeping readers turning the pages. I love the stories, and sometimes find myself continuing with the editing when I should be doing other things.

The Prairie Companions

One of these books, The Prairie Companions, will be free to download for a few days from tomorrow. This is a wonderful chance to sample a lovely set of novels.

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I’ve just completed an online course. I’ve never taken an online course before, so I can’t compare it with anything, but this course was everything I expected and a lot more.

It’s Sally Quilford’s Pocket Novel Workshop. She’s running another one in June, and I highly recommend it. I found it extremely helpful and enjoyable. Sally hands out plenty of information and sets useful exercises. Her expert comments on the exercises provide very helpful advice for all participants.

If you’re wondering about this genre, I did too, once. Until one day when I felt things were getting on top of me and I happened to have a romance with me and I let it take me away to another world. Pocket novels are a form of escapism. Sometimes, it’s just what you need.

After my previous post, Erika recommended that I watch a recent TV programme. I won’t repeat the link here, as most of you won’t understand it, but I’m devoting this post to it.

In the programme, three people in their forties return to the schools where they were bullied to confront their former bullies. The former bullies – two of them, in each case – are not told whom they’re going to meet in advance and have no idea what’s going to happen. The hero (that’s how they’re described in the programme) enters the room and initiates a discussion about how they suffered as children.

In each case, the former bullies react in a different way. In one, a woman, who doesn’t remember the actions attributed to her, says, “If I hit you, there must have been a reason.” Later, she tells the hero, “You need to think what you did to make children hit you.”

In another case, a man, who remembered it happening, says, “You asked for it,” meaning that the hero behaved in such a way that bullying was inevitable.

In the third case, the bullies admitted that the bullying took place and apologised.

I found the programme fascinating, but I’m not sure I agree with the way it was organised or with all the conclusions viewers were encouraged to draw. When you’re accused of something, especially something you don’t remember doing, and especially when the accusation is sprung on you without warning, you generally do your best to defend yourself. Those people might have thought differently after reflection, but they weren’t given time for that.

Nearly forty years had passed since the events described. The people had all changed since then. I don’t think it was fair to blame those people for what happened when they were young children who didn’t know what they were causing.

The suggestion that the boy asked for the bullying, or brought it on himself, was dismissed as ridiculous, but I suspect it was true – it certainly was in my case. I came to expect to be bullied and so I behaved in a way that would make it almost inevitable – not intentionally, of course.

Another thing I didn’t like about the programme was its implication that all bullying includes physical violence.

BUT there were parts I liked and agreed with completely. The fact that bullying can influence future profession, life style, country of residence and more. The importance of talking about what happened.

So if a lot of people watched that programme, I think that was good, because it showed that the effects of bullying go much further than the playground. I wish there were a simple solution. Any solution has to be based on more education and more adult involvement. Beyond that, I don’t know what can be done to prevent bullying.

On 3rd March, 2002, I received an email. It began: “Hi, it’s Gill Balbes (as was) here. Was talking to Jane the other night and she was telling me about how she’d been in contact with you and that you remember me (as I do you) so I thought I’d say hello. Schooldays seem a long way off but it would be nice to hear how you’re doing.”

Schooldays certainly were a long way off. It was over thirty years since I’d walked out of the school gates, vowing never to have any connection with any of the girls I’d known over the previous seven years – a few even longer. It was only recently that I’d added my name to the Friends Reunited site, opening up the possibility of contact, although I didn’t expect anyone to write to me.

But Jane did write and I made a decision: that if I was going to correspond with anyone from school, I would make the relationship meaningful by being open about what happened to me there. If they didn’t want to discuss it, there wasn’t much point in reuniting.

Fortunately, Jane did agree to discuss it. She also apologised for what she did to me, although I didn’t hold her or any of the former pupils to blame as adults for their actions as children. I always knew the bullying (which I called teasing then) had had a bad effect on the rest of my life, but never thought the children were mature enough to understand what they were causing.

Jane soon put me in contact with Gill, who had more time to write. Gill and I corresponded almost daily for a long time, and she became a very special friend to me. It was Gill who told me about social anxiety. I didn’t realise the significance of it at first, but gradually two things became clear. I was not alone in being this way and it’s possible to improve. (I don’t think it makes sense to say there’s a cure, and I don’t think there needs to be one.)

Gill has been the catalyst for many changes in my life – for starting to write, for starting a blog, and much more. We have now met several times. After ten years, I still count Gill as a very special friend.

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Do you have a friend story you want to share?

Please note: I have scheduled this post to appear on the right day, but probably won’t be available to comment for a day or two.