About Me

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Happy Campers

I've never been one for basic accommodation and camping really didn't appeal to me. Then I rediscovered myself a few years ago and decided to try new things; that bucket list making an appearance, hypothetically perhaps, but I decided to dig out the sleeping bag nonetheless. We've been a few times now, each time to a different camp site. And I have to say, I surprise myself when I tell people how much fun it is to get outdoors, sleep (almost) under the stars, and listen to the rustle of wildlife just inches away.

Jon and I have just spent a very enjoyable weekend in one of our favourite counties, Derbyshire. This time we visited a campsite near Bakewell. Arranged around an abundance of meadows and nestled against a picturesque hillside, the site was a short stroll from the local village pub. The bonus being that the food in there is exceptional and they even have a pool table, on which we spent the majority of Saturday afternoon in our own little pool league. I ignored the comments from one guy who obviously assumed, as a woman, I didn't know one end of the pool cue from the other, and I do hope he witnessed me pot the black on our fifth game - best out of five; not one to brag, of course.

We got chatting to our neighbours in the tent next-door, who were obviously serious campers with their fire-pit and gas stove, collapsible washing up bowl and various utensils that you tend to find in the aisles at Go Outdoors. They even had a string of solar lights around the porch of their tent. Oh, and a television. Jon and I sat outside our pole tent looking in envy at their air tent and their little set-up of luxury as we flicked off the bugs and beetles that assumed they'd been invited to a pyjama party in our sleeping bags.

Yes, we lived rather basically for two and a half days, a couple of tarpaulin sheets tucked around the insides of the tent to stop the rain coming in on our first night - though it didn't stop the drips, unfortunately. We did take a bucket, though. We had a feeling the toilet block would be a bit of a trek. But I'm happy to report that damp sleeping bags, a bug bash and a pole tent with an intermittent drip hasn't put either of us off, and so we have taken the plunge and invested in a very nice air tent with a porch (posh) and my next mission is to write a list of accessories from the aisles at Go Outdoors in order to make our next camping trips a lot more luxurious (and dry).

Wednesday, 9 May 2018


We have enjoyed an unusually long spell of good weather here in West Yorkshire recently. Fields around us have flourished, headlands and hedgerows all green and lush, and the oil seed rape overwhelms the countryside with its vibrant yellow flowers. I love this time of year; it lures people into their gardens, mowing lawns and planting colour, washing blowing in the breeze as the sun beats down. After our long winters and rather depressing temperatures, it feels so nice to sit outside again. Our garden isn't huge, but it's plenty big enough for us, and as it's south-facing it makes it a particularly pleasant area to sit in. My husband does his barbecue bit and Abba rings out from next door as I find myself tempted to sing along and be the neighbourhood dancing queen.

We are in the middle of erecting a large shed. It's going to be rather impressive once finished, and between us we're going to have it ready hopefully in the next few weeks. It's been years in the making, but the smile on my husband's face says everything as I watch him stand back and admire what will become his "man-cave". I'm sure I'll be allowed in it occasionally, with a cup of something or a Jack Daniels and Coke, but it will primarily be his space, a sanctuary where he will create and build and unwind from the responsibilities and stress his job demands. I'm probably as excited as he is about it, though I have my own "cave", also known as my office.

So I have decided to create a new page on this blog dedicated to Jon. It will show progress of the man-cave and give you an idea of the commitment this project entails. It's a great thing to finally feel like you've turned a corner and the goal you've been aiming towards for a huge amount of time, is finally happening, before your eyes, in your own back garden.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Looking In

Owning the most vocal cat in West Yorkshire, it was inevitable that one day we would need to invest in a cat-flap so that she could treat the house as the B&B most felines are accustomed to. Jon fitted it yesterday and together we restrained and prised her stubbornness through the microchip reader in order to enable the contraption to work effectively. She tried to escape of course, and after a few attempts did get the better of us. The long and short of it being, the microchip reader didn't want to work and now we're left with a cat-flap that has the ability to welcome every cat and his dog. It's fixable, though, so for now our rather errant cat can enjoy her freedom both inside and out.

From the inside, she stares beyond the confines of the garden, scouring the neighbourhood fencing, the dilemma of turning left or right and whose property she can peruse for whatever purpose she decides. From the outside, she looks in at the warmth of a family kitchen, the people whose hands that feed her pottering about, the chit-chat of familiar voices ringing out in the atmosphere. Her little world has expanded beyond the demands of confinement, the need to be outside where she roams the grass that's greener and the pavements that lead to adventure; or the inside where affection awaits, a cosy bed and the chaos of furniture and windowsills and venetian blinds that envelope her in security.

All she ever wanted was a forever family to love her, to cherish her, to offer her pleasant dreams and lasting friendship. She found it. We all did.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The Horse that Bolted

I think it's quite hard to get back in the saddle when you've been out of the loop for a while. Take squash, for example. I used to play competitively back in the 1980s and was actually rather good. It was a long time ago of course, though somedays I feel like I could jog back onto the squash court, ram those little balls against the wall, and jog back off again, satisfied that I'd just won 9-0 against my trainer. Those were the days. I still have a squash racket, though much to my husband's disappointment, I did get rid of the frilly knickers I used to wear when playing on the show court in competitions. (I'll have a look at Amazon when I've finished writing this post, sweetheart; they tend to sell everything.) There are certain things, however, that we can put away not knowing when, or if, they'll ever resurface. I did that with a manuscript a few years ago. Wrote nearly 90,000 words of it, a little roughly granted, but there it was, ready to be edited and perhaps made into a book one day. The more creative side of me decided it should stay filed away, but one day, about eighteen months ago, I decided to rewrite it.

It became too much of a chore in the end and I realised my heart wasn't in it when I was boring myself every time I opened it up in Word. I rewrote about 30,000 words, so it was no mean feat to put it away again. But it has to be the case that your heart rules your head when it comes to doing something you enjoy. The problem in that case was that my head was telling me I needed to write another book whilst my heart was saying, 'this isn't the one.'

Life is very much like that, isn't it. We can go for years thinking we've got it right. Then we can be reading an article or listening to music, browsing through social media or chatting to a stranger at the supermarket check-out, and there it is, the realisation that there is so much more to life that we envisaged for ourselves.

As I sit here at my dad's antique desk, staring at this screen and typing on a far-too-small Apple keyboard, I reflect upon the choices I've made throughout my life. My belief in a world other than our own is particularly significant to those choices, for I strongly believe I have been guided to where I am today and I will continue to be guided along the paths I choose to take. The roads are never straight, or clear. They are often littered with twists and turns and obstacles that make us question and over-think. I have travelled along some pretty treacherous routes over the years, yet being guided still brought me to a destination that only a few years ago I would never have dreamt possible.

We have to move on and allow ourselves to tread through the potholes and take diversions that tend to lead us back on the straight and narrow. There are some, of course, who always manage to avoid the pits and troughs as they sail along on a wing and prayer, wondering what all the fuss is about. Someone said to me recently that if we were offered a cheque for £10,000 to do with what we liked, or were given the opportunity to better ourselves and earn the money, leaving a taste of satisfaction and feeling of appreciation for what we achieved, that it would be more beneficial to us as human beings to earn the money.

This time, I got it right. I bettered myself and I will continue shouting it from the rooftops. I've worked hard for what I have today; I brought a child up with autism virtually single handed; I worked hard to write my books, and will continue to do so; I lived on a remote farm feeling lonely and isolated for 13 years; I then lived alone with my daughter and welcomed the love of a good man as we supported each other through some difficult times. So I might still feel 21, and I might still be a borderline spring chicken, but if anyone wants to hand me that cheque for £10,000, I reckon I've earned it. (That should buy quite a few pairs of frilly knickers and give us a nice holiday in the Maldives. Sorted.)

Wednesday, 11 April 2018


Eleven years ago I thought for a considerable amount of time about what to name my blog. Inspiration came to me from various sources, and after deliberating over how to introduce myself to the big wide world, beyond fields of grazing sheep and roaring tractors, Crystal Jigsaw was born. Blogging became a full-time hobby for a while, as I established myself and became involved with several online support groups, mainly other writers and mums who had the same idea as me. We formed our networks and became a little family of likeminded creators, getting ourselves known and following each other's day-to-day escapades. The camaraderie was really quite incredible and even though we all had a tale to tell with our own opinions and advice and individuality, we were there for each other. I made friends in the blogging world all those years ago who I am still friends with today. Once Twitter and Facebook started to take over, we stayed in touch and gave each other even more of a glimpse into our lives. Blogging, for me, was a source of escapism and creativity. As a writer and author of four published novels, the blog helped to motivate me. Encouragement came in the form of commenting, which everyone tended to do back then. It was the in-thing to comment, and a massive boost to find your writing had been appreciated. We all need that occasionally.

I've thought about rekindling CJ for quite some time now, and it was only this week that once more I felt inspired to do just that by some of those blogging friends I made in the early days. My life has changed significantly over the last three years and the CJ you will read from now on isn't the CJ you knew back then. Life has to change sometimes. We have to move on and find our purpose. I found mine and realised how much I'd missed out on for many years throughout my thirties and half way through my forties. I'll be 50 next year. I don't feel anywhere near my age, but the old CJ did.

So, here we go, Crystal Jigsaw has been revived; a new life, new people, new chapters. It was bound to happen sooner or later. When writing is your passion and the motivation starts to return, you reach for the stars and take in the vast possibilities that have always been there, albeit perhaps hidden amongst the treasures of Pandora's Box.