Tag Archives: radio

My mind’s gone blank, but I’m having a good Northern natter on the radio…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” where I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author… Photo of a Diary

My mind’s gone blank. I’m sat here at my computer and I can’t think of a thing to write. That’s what happens to my head sometimes, long periods of tumbleweed where I can’t think of anything to say and then when I do say something, it turns out to be complete bobbins. As it goes, this is what also happens to me  when I listen to myself speak on the radio. A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by the lovely Claire Carter for the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Breakfast Show – and this week it’s airing, every day, 5 mornings a week. Oh dear lord. ‘Who-hoo!’ screeches the youngest, dive-bombing onto our bed. ‘Ouch!’ I cry. ‘That was my stomach!’ Apologising, the youngest catapults herself in between me and my half-asleep husband and settles down for a listen. ‘Turn it up, dad. Mum’s on in a minute.’ ‘Whhaaaaaaaa!’ comes another yell, this time from the direction of the room of the eldest, the door crashing to the wall as she belts in and belly flops on the mattress. ‘Bloomin’ heck,’ mutters my husband, ‘it’s like WWF in here.’ Ignoring the fact that the coffee I am holding has just spilt all over the sheets, we turn up the radio and settle down to listen.

Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s something about listening to the sound of my own voice that I just find, well, cringey. I’m originally a Dublin lass, but when I was about 5, we sailed the boat to Liverpool and with my mum, dad, sister and new baby brother, we set up home in Leyland, Lancashire, and overnight, I became a fully paid up Northerner. Since my childhood, I have moved about a far bit. I went to University in Liverpool, mixing my voice into the melting pot of accents from all over the UK.  Later, I worked in Manchester, moving down to Bristol with my Southerner husband, eventually settling in the Cotswolds surrounded by a mix of the Queen’s English on one hand and the farmer’s on the other.  And so, when we sit in the bedroom and hear my voice, I am quite surprised. ‘Mum,’ says the youngest, ‘that doesn’t sound like you.’ We all lean into the radio. ‘She’s right,’ says my husband, sitting up, ‘it doesn’t.’ We all nod. ‘You sound nice, mum,’ says the eldest. ‘What,’ I say, ‘like I don’t always sound nice?’ The ensuing silence speaks volumes.

And so, each day this week, in the ‘Thought for the Day’ slot, I am hearing my voice on the radio talking about Gloucestershire. Some days I sound right northern, others I swear I could be from the south, but each time the things that I am talking about come across, well, okay, really. I return home later that morning and switch on the radio only to catch the second slot of the day at 8.45a.m. where they repeat my thought of the day from the earlier 6.45am slot. The thing that really touches me this time though is the presenter, Mark Cummings. Because, even though he doesn’t have to, when he introduces me he talks about my writing, mentioning my e-book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, by name. It makes me stop and think, about how nice people are sometimes and how, even when you don’t ask, they will do something for you, something that can help, something that can make all the difference.

‘Do you know,’ I say to my husband later that evening, red wine in hand, ‘when this week of radio interviews have aired, I’m going to send a thank-you email to Mark and Claire at BBC Gloucestershire. They’ve been so good to me, mentioning my book, tweeting about me, all sorts.’ My husband puts his arm around me and gives me a hug. ‘And they’re running your main book interview this week, too.’ My bottom lip wobbles. ‘Look,’ he says, ‘it’s because you’re so nice, honey, that’s why they do these things.’ I start to cry. ‘You okay?’ he asks. I nod and wipe my nose. ‘Wouldn’t it be great,’ I say, ‘if it all worked out and I really could make a living out of writing.’ He smooths back my hair. ‘What would you write about when you make it there?’ he says. I open my mouth to say something and then frown. I take a swill of wine. ‘What were you going to say?’ asks my hubbie. I shrug. ‘I’ve completely forgotten. My mind’s just gone blank.’ He sighs and we stick the telly on.

Catch me on BBC Radio Gloucestershire all this week at 6.45a.m. and 8.45 a.m. You can also listen to the Mark Cummings breakfast show on BBC iPlayer here

**Out tomorrow: “Thursday Thought”, where I post my local weekly newspaper column to the blog. This week: do we worry too much as parents today?**

How a nice cup of tea helped my will to win. Sort of…

Welcome to “Wednesday Wafflings” a bit of a well, waffle, where I post the latest in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

I need a cup of tea. Last week I was clumsy, this week I’m tired. For the past few months I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. again to write –  and I think it’s taking its toll. Writing in the morning helps reassure me for the day because if other work takes over later on, at least I know that I’ve put an hour’s worth of writing on to the page. The thing is, I am now absolutely shattered. ‘You look tired,’ says my friend one evening as we go for a fast walk in the late sunshine. ‘I know,’ I yawn, ‘but it will be worth it.’ She narrows her eyes at me and stops walking. ‘Look,’ she says, her serious teacher face on, ‘you don’t need to push yourself quite so hard. Maybe move your deadlines back a bit.’ I rub my eyes and nod before we resume our exercise in the fading light.

When I get home later, I slump on to the sofa and realise that my friend is right. I am pushing myself a little hard. I have given myself a deadline for my second novel to be complete, and it’s quite a tight one. Thing is, I’m over half way through it now and I’m at that stage where I can get an idea of what the finishing line will look like. Trouble is, I am frying myself in the process, but isn’t that what we all do when we work towards something we so badly want and love? There’s a free e-book I downloaded the other day by Karen Brady. If you watch TV, you may know her as the advisor to Lord Alan Sugar on the BBC show The Apprentice; if you’re a footie (aka soccer) fan, you may know her as the Vice-Chairman of West Ham United. The book’s entitled Karen Brady’s 10 Rules for Success, and in it, amongst other things, she cites how hard work is essential if we want to get to where we want to be.  Sat on the sofa one night, iPad on, I quote this to my hubbie. ‘Honey,’ he says, ‘she’s right. You do need to work hard. But right now, if you keep getting hardly any sleep like you are, you’re going to make yourself sick.’ I blow my nose. ‘I’m not sick,’ I croak. He rolls his eyes. ‘Do you want some paracetemol?’ I pull the blanket on to my lap. ‘Mmm, I’d better. Maybe some hot water and lemon, too.’

The next morning, I take a quick look at Karen’s other top ten tips and try to see if I am already achieving some of them. ‘Know how to negotiate.’ Hmmm, I can get the eldest to have only one digestive biscuit instead of two, so, tick! ‘Have the courage to take a risk.’ Okay, so I did contact the Gloucestershire Gazette about writing a column, and I did try a raw scallop once, so yeah, I do risks, so, tick! ‘Plan to win.’ Hmmm…I stand and think. ‘Plan to win,’ I say out loud. My youngest must hear me as she rushes in shouting, ‘Who won? Who won? What did you win mum?’ When I tell her nothing, she drops her shoulders and sulks off. I flop into my seat. Planning to win is not something I normally do. Planning to juggle, yes. Planning to get my roots done one day soon, definitely. But win? It seems almost arrogant – and certainly alien – to think such a thing about myself. But I realise Karen’s advice is right. If I don’t plan to win, how will I ever, you know, win? Feeling a bit tired by all the thinking, I get up, get the kids to school and return to the house to find my mobile buzzing – it’s a direct message for me via Twitter. Clicking it open, I read it to see it’s from a radio presenter at BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Claire Carter – and she wants to do an interview…about my book The Boy Who Played Guitar.  Frozen to the spot, my heart bangs in my chest as Claire and I then proceed to send a string of messages to each other, the upshot of which is that she is coming to our house the next day to interview me. I immediately phone my husband. ‘Wow! Nice one, honey,’ he says. I let out a breath and say, ‘You do radio. Will you give me some pointers?’  He readily agrees and I am very grateful (he, the media tart, loves the radio, and does the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Business Briefing almost every week. He does TV interviews, too. Our kids now think he is famous. I know.) Next, I phone my mum. ‘Proud of you!’ she shouts. Then, finally, I phone my friend. ‘Jesus!’ she shrieks. ‘You’d better wash your hair.’ I nod. ‘And the kitchen sides,’ she says. ‘Wipe down the sides!’  I thank her – she is an oracle of advice.

While I am nervous to start with, the actual interview goes really well. Claire is lovely, so chatty and friendly, and we bond over talk of cuppas and fake tans.  The interview doesn’t just stop at the subject of The Boy Who Played Guitar, either. ‘Do you fancy doing the Thought for the Day slot, as well?’ she asks. I gulp. ‘Sure,’ I croak, but it’s all okay. Claire asks me five Gloucestershire-based questions and I answer them best I can. When we are done, she says each one of my thoughts will air every day on the Breakfast Show for a week. I am beyond chuffed.

‘The Breakfast Show?’ says my hubbie later that evening as we sip some merlot. ‘That gets the highest listening figures.’ I grin. ‘And she was so nice,’ I say. ‘She said she’d let me know when it was all going to be aired and tweet everyone, too.’

It gets to Friday, and as I turn to Twitter, I get a lovely #ff message from Claire Carter, saying kind things about me. It almost makes me cry. Smiling from ear to ear, I tweet back and then stick the kettle on. Switching on my iPad, I click on to Kindle and spot the Karen Brady book. ‘Plan to win,’ I say to myself. The kettle whistles, and I grab the tea bags. Whatever I plan to do, I’ll just make a nice cup of tea first.

Tired from writing or working? What helps you to keep going? Need tea or is coffee your thing? Pop on a comment and let me know. Thanks!

**Out tomorrow: my latest colulmn post for the Gloucestershire Gazette**

The day starts with a pasty and ends some tears…

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and all I can think of are pasties. Not because I work at Greggs, but because the BBC Radio 5 presenter is updating all us early risers on the latest British Government VAT disaster that is “Pastygate”.  I sip my coffee (strong) and try and focus. This week has been manic. It’s the Easter school break from Monday, and while we’re off away on holiday then, the run up means getting everything sorted so we can go away without me or my husband waking up with a start in the middle of the night realising we haven’t sent an important email. It’s the work equivalent of going away and leaving the cooker on.

A bit like a cooker, I feel like I am running out of steam. I’m getting tired and I think it may be affecting my hearing. ‘Mum,’ says my eldest whilst I am furiously checking emails at the kitchen table. I look up and I see her mouth moving, but nothing else. Smiling at her by way of an answer, I hope it will do the job. It doesn’t, and she simply rolls her eyes, pats my back and says, ‘Mum, you need to get to bed earlier,’ and with that she’s off upstairs to read her book.  I slump into the chair and realise she’s right. That night, though, instead of going to bed I stay up to work on my blog. I read something about Search Engine Optimisation and blogs the other day, and so I spend most of the evening linking by blog URL to search sites so it has some sort of fighting chance of people finding it (I used www.addme.com – it’s easy & free). I sigh and rub my head.  People actually finding my blog on the internet feels like the cyberspace equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. ‘Hey, when are we going to do your You Tube video?’ asks my husband, who is sat encased in the sofa and a blanket. I shrug because my brain seems to have ceased functioning – I have lost the will to speak. Right then, my laptop dies. Normally, I take this is my cue to go to bed, but tonight I am not a happy bunny – there are a few choice words directed its way.  ‘Hey,’ says my husband, ‘what’s up?’  Tears spring to my eyes and I begin to warble on about something to do with slow book sales, getting novel number two finished and other such nonsense. Giving me a hug, he smiles and says, ‘Hey, should we look at some funny videos on the t’interweb?’ I wipe my cheeks.  ‘Yes,’ I choke. I sit up and stare at his iPad and start to feel better. ‘Thanks,’ I tell him, and with that, we’re watching You Tube till late in the night, laughing and feeling a whole heap better. We even figure out when we’re going to do my own You Tube promotion video for my book, which is when I tell my husband that earlier that day I hit the half-way point on writing novel number two. ‘Just in time for a holiday,’ he says. ‘And while we’re away, maybe we can do you a plan, you know, to get things done.’ I sit up. ‘Yes! There are some short story competitions to enter, and some articles I can write for magazines and get paid for!’  I let out a breath. I need my bed.

The next morning, we rise to frantic news stories of a potential petrol crisis, with MPs suggesting we buy extra petrol and put it in Jerry cans; stamp prices are going up by a third (a third!); and there are more details on how you now have to pay VAT on your pasty if it’s hot. ‘The country is running out of petrol,’ announces the radio. My husband shuffles out of bed. ‘I know how it feels,’ he mutters. While the girls get ready for school, I am perched at my laptop, quickly uploading my book to send it off to be reviewed at website www.enovelreviews.com. I hit send and cross my fingers that they will review the thing – it could make a big difference to sales vs. no sales, sort of. Logging on to my email account, I delete some messages, tidy things up and making a quick list of what I have to do that day ready for holidays. From our bedroom, I hear the sound of my husband laughing. ‘Nikki!’ he shouts, coming into the study. ‘Listen to this, it’s sooo funny!’ I put my pen down. ‘It’s from The Poke,’ he trills, holding his iPad. The Poke (www.thepoke.co.uk) is a website we both now follow on Twitter which gives a funny take on current news affairs, and posts some internet comedy gold. My husband loves it. ‘Listen to this tweet,’ he whoops. ‘It says: Where am I going to put all this petrol? The bath’s already full of stamps and pasties.’ We both fall about laughing, tears and everything. Even the girls come in and ask what’s going on. We try and explain, but I don’t think we do a very good job.

After we’ve composed ourselves, I shoo the girls so they can finish getting ready. In our bedroom, my husband asks how the work is going. I tell him about the review site, the emails and the like, to which he sighs. I frown. ‘You okay?’ I ask. Suddenly he says, ‘Do you think we should buy stamps at Costco before they go up? They’re cheaper there anyway.’ I shake my head. ‘Daft government. Pick up some pasties while you’re at it, will you?’ The mention of a pasty sends the girls running in. ‘Are there pasties? Where are the pasties?’ ‘Ooo,’ says the youngest, ‘I like a Steak Slice.’ The eldest joins in. ‘I love cheese pasties!’ My husband laughs out loud. ‘What?’ I ask. But I don’t think he hears me. He’s looking at tweets on The Poke again.  I go and turn off my laptop. We need a holiday.

A newspaper photo shoot ends up in a toe de-fluff

It’s been a bizarre week. After the hubby pointing out that, given my own marketing background I should get and do the publicity for my own book, I begin to email out a whole heap of press releases  to various media outlets.

Contacting them starts with calling the news desk numbers. And it turns out that’s quite a nerve-wracking thing to do. Keen to get the name of the right person to send the press release to, I pick up the phone ready to speak, and immediately put it down again, hands shaking. ‘Breathe,’ I tell myself.  This is daft. Given my book has a Gloucestershire connection, I have decided to start with the local papers first, and my heart is racing. ‘God help you when you contact the nationals,’ pipes up my hubbie, toast in mouth as he passes by the study. I tut. He has a point. Actually, I chastise him, but I have to admit he’s been a great help – he has spoken to his contact at Radio Gloucestershire and turns out they’re very interested in running a story about the book. ‘I could kiss you!’ I shriek when he calls one morning with the good news. ‘It’s not come to that has it?’ he replies. He has a point. But at the very least my two daughters are excited – it’s quite sweet. ‘Mum’s going to be famous!’ they yelp, jumping, knocking over their lunch boxes. ‘Mum’s going to be famous!’ I sigh. ‘Not really,’ I tell them. ‘Mum, we’re so proud of you!’  they say. Aaah. ‘ We’re telling the teachers!’  shouts the eldest. Oh dear God.

Come the afternoon, I’ve taken several deep breaths, called the news desks and finally sent out the press releases with accompanying photographs (1 potrait, 1 landscape is best, according to my friend, Press Chris). So far so good. Realising it’s nearly school-run time, I am shoving on my Converse and jacket, when my mobile shrills. ‘Hi,’ says an Irish voice. ‘Is that Nikki?’ My heart bangs ten to the dozen. ‘Yes,’ I croak. ‘It’s the Gloucestershire Citizen Newspaper,’ they say. ‘We’d like to arrange a photo call for your story tomorrow.’ Oh holy Lord. After quickly stemming the instant need to vomit, I arrange a time and date for the next day. ‘Oh, and can you bring your Kindle for the shot?” she asks.  Oh heck. I do not own a Kindle yet, but have asked for one for my birthday. So I do what I know I only can. I lie, sort of.  ‘Um, that might be tricky, because, um, it’s being…um…fixed,’  I say. There is silence. Then, yes! I remember my friend, Jo, owns one, and she only lives round the corner.  Result. ‘But I can get one!’ I say, triumphant. ‘Great!’ she replies.  ‘Bye.’ And with that, she’s gone. I text Jo, fast.

Dazed, somewhat elated and now late,  I sprint to school (turns out it literally is the school-run), and am breathless on arrival, when the Citizen girl phones again. ‘Can you get Stuart to be in the shot?’ she asks. This is Stuart Langworthy, my hubbie’s teacher who inspired the book. I try not to scare her by heavy breathing into the phone. ‘Sure,’ I say, ‘no problem.’ This turns out to be a bit tricky, as of course Stuart being a teacher, is teaching. But, bless him, he’s up for it and after a few calls and rearranging, first one venue, then the other, we have a time of 10am for the next day at his school for the shoot. It’s the same school my husband went to, the same school Simon Pegg attended, the same school Stuart’s always taught at.

That night, it’s a case of figuring out what to wear. ‘Mum,’ says the eldest, eyes narrowed at a blouse hanging up, ‘that’s okay. But make sure you don’t go too old lady.’ Then she’s off, head in book, her job done. I sigh, peer into the mirror  and pull at the wrinkles around my eyes. Make up. I’m going to need make up.

Thankfully, the photographer who meets us the next day is a nice guy. ‘I know your husband,’ he says as he sets up the room for the shot. ‘Most people do,’ I say, sighing.  The photographer is keen to get the Kindle, containing my book cover, into shot , but something’s wrong and it’s not playing ball. Last night, me and my friend Jo, whilst she was teaching me how to use it, actually deleted the book by accident. Oops. On top of the cover crisis, the photographer is actually two hours late – the Citizen girl forgot to tell him of the new time and venue we arranged, so things (i.e. me) are a bit fraught. But no matter. I stand, I smile, I hold up my friend’s Kindle, the Amazon page it’s sold on projected on to the screen behind me. When I am asked questions, I hear my voice shaking, but thankfully, no one seems to notice. Stuart is lovely, the photographer is kind and my friend Emma, who was also taught by Stuart, has turned up ready for lunch. ‘You off to work now?’ asks Stuart, once the shoot’s over. I shake my head. ‘Shopping,’ I say. ‘Ah, a bit of retail therapy,’ he replies. Hmm, yes. Therapy, I think. Therapy would be good.

That night, I am getting my youngest daughter ready for bed as she asks me about my day. I tell her about the photographer and the newspaper, and she beams a smile at me. Bless her. ‘Off you go and clean your teeth now,’ I say, as I nip down stairs. Two minutes later, she is calling me from her room. ‘Yes?’ I say, coming back up. ‘Mum,’ she says, sat on the floor, feet out, ‘since you did so well today, I have a present for you.’ She wriggles her feet. ‘You can clean out the fluff from my toes!’  she announces. I smile and kneel down.  ‘Oh honey,’ I say. This is a first. Removing fluff from her toes is her favourite thing. This is a Big Deal. ‘Thank you, sweetie,’ I say.  And then, giving her a hug,  I begin to de-fluff  her toes. Now this is therapy.