Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sunday Snippet - piece from Peru

It feels like the proverbial painting of the Forth Bridge - with more stops and starts than a stoppy starty thing! I have drafted, scrapped, re-written, scrapped again and now hopefully have a final draft that will become the final version though in my eyes still needs a lot of editing. At some point I am going to have to stop and say that is it. Anyway, the e-book is progressing... so time for a snippet...!



This was a proper local market, full of bright, big baskets of fruit and vegetables and rainbow piles of wool.  Not a postcard or bit of tourist tat in sight. It was a place to bring, buy, eat, drink, gossip, catch up and socialise. Even the local police officers were standing chatting, hats off, enjoying a beer.  Community policing at its best.  As we were getting back onto the bus the women  started piling up on the back of a Toyota truck, looking like a pyramid of colourful sacks. 
I pointed to them "It looks like they're trying for the world record of how many people can you get onto the back of a truck."
"Ah," said Paco, "The selling part of the market is finishing. That is the only truck or taxi that will take the women home. They have to go now and work in the house. The men stay and drink."   
Some things are the same the world over.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

June-athon went all Wrong-athon



Who stole June? Seriously, time flies and all that but this feels like a whole month didn't just fly but was transported via the Tardis!  It started with good intentions, oh so good and oh so intentional. Just a run and a blog every day - that was all. Then it just all went horribly wrong (you can see the demise as my last desperate attempts were a few words posted by iPhone!).

I won't bore you with detail but suffice to say it involved son going to America by himself (an exciting adventure for him and a slightly traumatic experience for me), and continued with migraines, insomnia, too much coffee and wine (some of these items may be linked!), ten hour days in the office job, and culminated last week in the dog having an op having been poorly.

So - I have still done a bit of running and a bit of writing - nowhere near the amount planned and definitely not daily. But sometimes shit happens. It just happened a lot in these past four weeks.

But dog's fine, son's fine and I'm fine. And so - new month, new challenge.
Tomorrow I start 100K words in 100 days. I'd aimed to have my e-book edited and complete by this weekend but haven't (see above for distractions, excuses, blah blah) so will be aiming to finish this in the next couple of weeks, while starting this challenge.

It is after all *only* 1,000 words a day. What could possibly go wrong...?! (stay tuned.. ;))

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Juneathon Day 4

Two for the price of one! Did a run this morning - Nike+ stopped part way through so have 2 seperate records of:
1.6 miles plus 0.64 miles

Reckon that's about 2.24 miles then!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Juneathon Day 3 - quick ones!

No time -busy day - doesn't work get in the way especially when you sleep in cos you had far too much of a good weekend...
So, today just a 20 minute walk with the dog and 15 mins of sit ups and crunchy things (my own technique...!)
And a v short blog...

But better than nothing!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Juneathon Day 2 - lessons already learned

Day 2 of Juneathon - and after another night out (albeit sober one as I decided sensibly to drive following the previous night's excesses) I was debating if a golf lesson later today could count as 'exercise'. I decided not as, not only is it golf, but I don't even walk around the course as I'm a total beginner and just learning how to hold the sticks and look like a golfer (though there is no way I can do lady golfer fashion).
And my aim in doing Juneathon is to help with my running, and I know enough to know that you don't run on the golf course.

So I did the same run as yesterday - oddly it came up a bit shorter on my Nike+ but slightly quicker. So I have decided:
this is the run I'm going to do every week day morning - as I have to take the dog for a walk before work anyway I may as well run with him - and it will focus me on trying to quicken my pace.
Then at least twice a week - likely weekends - I'll go for longer runs to build up my distance. The last long run I did was 7 miles but that was many weeks ago and I need to pick it up.

And the other lesson I learned today is that I need a new pair of running pants as the tops of both pairs I have are too loose and I keep having to pull them up. And I may have to consider shorter ones as I get very hot.

So here are today's scores on the doors

Saturday, 1 June 2013

I'm In-Athon

Today is the 1st June and I've joined Juneathon! This basically means I've signed up with the group on Twitter to run (or do other exercise) every day and blog every day of this month. That means two of the main things I allegedly do, that sometimes it has to be said get shoved down the priority list of things To Do, I will do every day. Running and writing - every day. Yay! What's not to love...?!

And - what a motivator. After going to the launch of a new bar that had free drinks all night last night (it would've been rude not to make the most of it) I really didn't feel like running today. But I did! Here's the proof  - not the speediest or longest, but given I was a little hungover and queasy I am pleased I moved at all.

Here's to Juneathon...!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Big Adventure to the other Big Apple

My son is about to embark on his first ever trip abroad by himself. I am in ever revolving turns all proud, excited, nervous, thrilled, worried. He is 17 years old, a slightly peculiar age of not being quite grown up but just finding his way in the world, starting to get more independent yet always happy being surrounded by home comforts, and content to be looked after by mum (as long as I don't embarrass him in front of his friends).
We've traveled together all over the place - visited Russia, trained it through Europe, as well as doing more standard beach holidays in sunny places. He's been away with school, this year to CERN - undoubtedly the best school trip ever.

The furthest he's ever been on his own is into town about ten miles away and now in June he's off to America - to San Francisco. He's going to Apple's WorldWide Developer's Conference, after winning a 'scholarship' in a competition where he had to submit an app he made.

He talked to me about it when he was thinking of entering, I encouraged him, because that's what mums are for - and now he's won and he's going and I'm feeling a whole lot proud and a little in shock. Not because I didn't expect him to win – he is a big Apple geek and has been making apps for years - and, though I'm biased I think he's great.
No, the shock is realising that he's going to be so far away, on his own, in a strange country, in a place where I don't know anyone who I can call on to look after him if he needs it.  It was a gut wrenching, heart in mouth feeling booking the flight and hotel and realising I'm not going to be there to check tickets, times, gates, getting to the hotel at the other end.  I'm not going to be at the hotel with him, checking out facilities, the area, deciding how to get around and where to go. And I'm not going to be with him at the end of the day to choose where to go for dinner, talk over the day's events and what's going on tomorrow. He's on his own.

This is a huge step - it's a fabulous opportunity for him, to go and be in the environment he wants to make his career in, meet techies and companies from all over the world, have a week of workshops and training and learning all sorts.  All I can do is believe that he is mature and sensible enough to look after himself, that he is sociable and intelligent enough to talk to people and make friends when he's there, that he will make the most of every single moment of this opportunity, and that I have done enough to be able to wave him off into this big step into his next phase of life and independence.  Then all I can do is be thankful for Apple and their gadgets and get ready to face time him!



Sunday, 19 May 2013

Tee time!

I have been scribbling stuff recently - just not on here!
One thing I have somehow got myself into - something I have never had a desire to do- is having golfing lessons.  It started out, after a pretty disastrous first ever go on a golf course, as a challenge - there was I have to say a bit of disbelief that I could actually learn how to do it properly. I have still not learned to let things go - as soon as someone says 'I bet you can't...' that's it. I WILL prove them wrong, by hook or by crook! And so, this at times bad habit of mine not to let things go, has got me into having golf lessons and a column in a magazine. The Duff Guide to Golfing may well be added to my list of books in the pipeline...!

Lots more to tell - but for now I will leave you with my first attempt to be Tigress Woods....
on page 30 of Northern Golfer magazine

Monday, 15 April 2013

Blogs, books and busyness

I know I have neglected this blog a bit recently but also know that it happens and hey the world hasn't ended!  And if you're reading this dear reader, you are still with me and I thank you for that!

I've been cracking on with my book on Machu Picchu - now getting to the exciting stage where I can talk about it and show people and ask for feedback (while only slightly feeling panicked/ hiding under blanket/ screaming eeeek). More about that in good time...

I have also been busy setting up something I have been thinking about for a while - a blog focused on being mostly vegan. I decided to try being vegan last year and have stuck to it although not always 100%!
I've been wanting to write about it more and was spurred on by taking part in a recipe swap in March thanks to Twitter (see I don't waste my time on there - it is valuable research and contact building!) I'll be trying out recipes, reviewing restaurants and other things, charting the ups and downs and musings on being, wel,l as the name suggests, virtually vegan!

Like most other people who write, I don't just write. I have a full time job, which is temporary so I need to try to keep my hand in with freelance work too as that's what I'll be likely returning to doing when the contract ends.  I have my little family of teenage son, cat and dog to look after, sort out and have fun with. Oh and the fish - I can't forget the fish. I am single so solely responsible for things like doing the hoovering, shopping, putting the bins out and, this weekend's surprise task, sorting out a workman to fix the garage roof. I have friends I would like to see more of and do more with. I haven't seen my brother since Christmas and he only lives in Yorkshire. Then there's social media...

I have never had and always thought I should have a routine, a definite time, schedule or window in the diary for writing. I still think I should have. But do I need to? I'm not sure.
Does it help to have a fixed routine or is it just more stressful if you can't stick to it or find you don't always feel at your writing best in your scheduled time slot?
I am still working out what's best for me.  I know I am a night own and could happily start about 8pm and write all through the night. But realistically I can't do this and carry on with the rest of my life. I thought I should try getting up an hour earlier to at least write something - but I also find that about 30-45 minutes into writing I am flowing and don't want to stop. Plus it means setting the alarm for 5am...

Have you found anything that works well for you?

Monday, 1 April 2013

A never ending story

So - here we are then April already - doesn't time fly! I knew I had neglected my blogging a bit but was shocked when I logged on to see the whole month of March didn't exist in my blogging universe! Thought I was going mad as I distinctly recall logging on at least 2 or 3 times and writing posts - but I have just found them saved as drafts - so only going slightly mad, having written but not actually published them.

I have had a busy month, head down, getting on with my e-book on my trip to Machu Picchu (still playing about with possible titles). I decided my first draft needed a lot of work so I just started again pretty much from scratch!  This is now turning into a readable draft (I think) so I'm sending it off to a couple of other people to look at. This is scary because 1) I haven't yet shared it with anyone else and 2) having read it again I can still see a lot that I want to change.

I'm not sure if/ when I will ever be able to take off my editing goggles. It is the bit I enjoy more than the first part of just getting some words out and down on paper - I find that that's hard because I still can't stop myself editing as I go along, so it all becomes quite time consuming!

I am looking forward to getting other people's feedback on it - and I know the people I am sending it to are both honest and constructive. It is like seeing your baby suddenly being judged by others though and I have had to do some stern talking to myself to even get it sent off in the first place!

So - even while the others are looking at it I know I won't be able to resist working on it again - but hopefully when I get their feedback it will give me some direction, focus and reassurance that no, I really don't need to start all over again...!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Putting it out there- Sunday Snippet


I had a whizzy idea to enter the Northern Writer's Awards just two weeks before the deadline. Actually I had hummed and haaa'd about it for ages -  I took til then to make my mind up. I had two potential pieces I thought would just need some editing work on that I could put forward. So I got distracted from my main WIP, the Machu Picchu trek book, and spent time on two possible submissions, doing more editing than writing, which also threw out my 100K challenge word count.

Then I decided the day before the deadline I couldn't possibly enter the submissions, that they needed much more work, I didn't feel they were worthy of being read by others. Dear Reader, I bottled it. 
Still, I do now have two pretty much ready to go pieces to submit next year - or to put forward as entries into something else or possibly as a pitch. If I just dare...

In the meantime, here's a snippet from my Duff Guide to Prague, Budpest and Vienna - maybe by posting snippets I'll get over my coyness...!   

I peered at the grubby window which had just closed, incredulous. "They can't have closed it. It's lunchtime, we're in an ariport, there's a queue, there are lost tourists all around. How on earth can the tourist information booth just close?" I peered at it again. Maybe they were just swapping over staff or something. But no, behind the fading postcards stuck to the glass and pens and maps that nobody could buy now even if they wanted to, there was no sign of life.
I sighed. This wasn't in the plan, the guide book or the app.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Visual Dare: Third Eye

Oooh I haven't joined in for ages - love the photo as always and thanks to Angela as ever for her fab, fun visual dare challenge!

“What? You’ll have to speak up.”
“I said…”
“Shhhh, not so loud, you’ll give the game away.”
“I said… why can’t we just hide in a bush?”
“Don’t be silly, there aren’t any bushes. We have to use a bit of imagination. We’re private investigators now. Just think Tom Selleck in Magnum PI.”
“I feel more like Frank Spencer in Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em.  What’s that? I can hear someone laughing. Is someone laughing at us?”
“No. Well… it’s just that gatekeeper. He’s not really laughing at us. Well he is a bit. I’ll give him a Magnum PI stare. He’ll draw attention to...”
Clang, clunk, thwack.
“YEOWWWWCH!”
“Ooops sorry.”

Five fab things


Five fab things in my week this week were:
  • Milestone reached - My currently pregnant friend previously had a miscarriage - this week she safely passed that same point in this pregnancy - still a long way to go but so pleased for her that she's beyond that particular milestones.
  • Becoming a socialite! - There are pros and cons of going from being self employed to working full time but plenty of invites to do things, go places (all part of the job!) and socialise are a definite plus.
  • Ice skating - one of these opportunities this week was a chance to go ice skating as well as a meal and drink afterwards. I have been on the ice only twice before in my life but gave it a good shot, fell over, got up again and had an absolute hoot. Ice skating - my new fave thing that I think I'd like to learn how to do properly and probably never will.
  • Snow! Not a fan of winter or being cold at all but after the weeks/ months of rain, mud, brownness, wet swampy walks the bright, clean (for now) blanket of the white stuff has made the scenery brighten up and unlike in the rain, people come out to enjoy it and have fun. And I do love a snowman...
  • My log fire - it's particularly this time of year when I just love love love having a real fire. Coming in from the snow there is nothing cosier or more welcoming. Best thing I've ever bought!

Snow fun...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

My Three Eeks Challenge

I mentioned in my first post of the year about my aims-but-not really-resolutions that I'd be setting some goals - and here they are.. Ta-da! All signed, sealed and no getting out of no matter how crazy I may think I must've been when I agreed to do them!

This year I'm fundraising for Maggie's North East Centre, a much needed space for people with cancer and their families to get friendly help and support.  Maggie Keswich Jencks and her husband set the charity up when she had cancer and realised there was a need for somewhere relaxed, informal and non-institutional where people could go to get more information, support, help or just have a cuppa and a chat. There is now a Maggie's Centre being built in my area and it's the type of place I think will be such a massive help to anyone with cancer, or who knows someone with cancer. The NHS is great at what it does - but there is such a lot more provided by charities like Maggie's that wouldn't be there otherwise. You can find out more here

So, I've committed to raising £2,500 by the end of this year and to do this I'll be tackling three things that make me go 'eek' when I think about them (hence the title...see what I did?!)
No.1 Eek - The Long One - a first for me in terms of distance I'll be doing the Marathon of the North on April 28th - it's •only• 26 miles...
No.2 Eek - The Speedy One - I'm aiming to do the GNR on 16th Sept faster than, ahem, ever before! Definitely under 2 hours, yes very quick indeed - a 'proper' target will be set nearer the time..
No.3 Eek - The Hot, High One - following my errr 'success' mountain climbing in Peru (ie hospitalised with altitude sickness) I'll be tackling the jungle clad snake infested Escambray Mountains in Cuba on 15 November.

Eeeeek!
I have that sickly feeling in my stomach that I had when I was raising money for Breast Cancer Care - I hate asking people for money (even though it's such a fantastic cause!), it's even harder in the current climate, it seems like a huge amount, and I am already panicking that I won't be able to do it.  And that's just the fundraising.

They physical challenges - well, that's a whole other challenge..!

And if anyone can spare any pennies, the all important Just Giving link is here...! http://www.justgiving.com/SharonMcKee3Eeks

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

All in a day's work

I snapped this as I was down Newcastle Quayside - these chaps are bravely keeping the Sage Gateshead building gleaming.
Extreme window cleaning - a new sport or just a job?!


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Sunday snippet

Snippet from my WIP, which is back to progressing steadily thanks to the encouragement/ prodding of the 100k words in 100 days challenge!

An incense aroma filled the room, big enough for two not quite double beds and  basic but clean enough. After a quick glance around I flopped down on the bed, feeling exhausted and starting to privately object to being on someone else's itinerary. Would it be bad manners and unsociable if I said I was skipping whatever they had planned for the rest of the day and actually just stay here on my own? I was starting to crave time alone nearly as much as sleep.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Five fab things this week...

First Five Fab Things Friday of the year - I started this almost as a reminder to look back and think over the week and what's happened -and I'm sometimes surprised just how many fab things, however small, have happened.

This week:
  1. Baby news - my lovely friend and next door neighbour found out she was pregnant, even more exciting I was there with her and was the one to break the news to her, as she couldn't bear to look at the result! I was very honoured indeed.
  2. Being sober - I felt my age by being sober on New Year's Eve as teen son was going to a party for the first time on NYE and I wanted to make sure he was safe, sound and back home. I picked him up at half past midnight then had one glass of fizz to mark the occasion when we got in. I actually felt great the next day - and even went for a run (what a show off!) Much better than a hangover!
  3. Putting plans in action - this week, after four days, my not resolutions but plans for the year are so far going well (yes I know it's early days but it all counts!) I have written every day and been running three out of four days (the excuse not to run one evening was the day I was with my neighbour while she did her pregnancy test - damn good reason!)
  4. Going back to work - though it was a rude shock to the system the first day back after the lovely long festive break, it was also rather nice to have the camaraderie of being back in an office with others, discussing what we'd done and everyone having a bit of a go slow first day back (I know this may just be a novelty having had several years of home working by myself!)
  5. Getting new writer buddies – taking part in the write 100K words in 100 days challenge isn’t just good for a kick up the proverbial but there’s also a great group going on both FaceBook and Twitter and I look forward to swapping more support and fun with these new virtual pals during the challenge and beyond.
What's been fab about your week?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Not necessarily resolutions...

but I liked this and you could try any of them at any time!

(And so far I have done two 2.4 mile runs and written over 2,000 words... off to a good start!)

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

It's that time of the year..

It is of course THAT time of year, for looking back and looking forward, reflecting on resolutions made and kept/ broken and making them all over again to keep/ break.

I wrote last year that I don't really 'do' resolutions - although I do love a plan - and instead wrote myself a letter that reflected my aims for the year and what I thought I'd like to achieve. 

So farewell then 2012

I love re-reading things like last year's non-resolution letter, it's a bit like finding an old diary that transports you back to another time, with all the feelings flooding back.  If you want to read it it's here, but essentially there were three main things I wanted to get into the habit of doing and do well - writing, running and meditating. So how was it for me?
  • Writing - I've definitely made progress this year. I've had articles published in magazines and on websites, I have a contract for an e-book, I have a whole series planned, and know that I want to focus on travel related non-fiction. I don't earn a living from any of it. I still don't write every day. Yet. But watch this space.
  • Running - I started the year very focused on fitness, with a personal trainer and regular running habit. I was probably the fittest I've ever been by the time I went to trek to Machu Pichhu in April. Then three hospital stays within three months (one unplanned in Peru, and two planned here at home) set me well back. I have discovered much to my chagrin that I am in fact not Wonder Woman (maybe a good thing, I do not have the figure for that costume). My 'I'll have a couple of weeks off, then I'll be fine' after two not insubstantial operations turned out to be naive/ optimistic/ daft. It took til the Autumn for me to start feeling properly better. And the after effects still go on. So running took a back seat. Though I did turn vegan.
  • Meditating - I have done this on a very ad hoc basis, which as with most things you don't get the best benefits from. I did go to two sessions of a six session course but was wasn't really too taken with the teacher (or have been very lucky and spoilt to have had an excellent previous teacher) I don't do this every day but would still like to. And I don't have to go on a course to do it really!
The last bit of last year's letter was an almost flippant pledge to clear out the black hole that was the cupboard under the stairs. Do you know what? This is the one thing I actually did 100%! In fact it became my small but perfectly formed office! This year's black hole is the garage... 

And hello 2013

So - what about this year? My aims are in similar kind of groupings - writing stuff, health stuff and good for the soul stuff.   

Writing stuff - I want writing to be my number one focus (there are all sorts of other things I'd love to do like learn Spanish, dig out my guitar - but I must focus!) My target is that I will finish and publish my first e-book and complete one other that I've started (ooooh is that a pattern of starting things and not finishing them I spot?!)
I do have ideas for a whole series and if I achieve any more than this it's a bonus but let's get one done at a time! 

Healthy stuff - I have no plans for any more hospital stays or operations! I have committed myself to fundraising for a charity and some challenges which are going to need tip top fitness (more on this another time) I also want to keep up being vegan and understand more about nutrition. I know what it's like to have something that you take for granted like good health suddenly taken away from you so keeping well is vital to me.
Running will be my exercise of choice and I do have goals which I'm still in the process of signing up to so I won't say any more until that's all signed and sealed. 

Good for the Soul stuff - this is where the meditation and mindfulness comes in. I'd also put things I sometimes mention like random acts of kindness and gratitude into this. The fundraising and support for the charity I'll be doing also comes into this Lentil Soup for the Soul grouping. Harder to set specific goals but I know that I want to feel more like I'm giving back, being more aware and more present.

With my managerial head on I am shouting measurable targets and actions are needed! So I am going to set monthly goals then you Dear Reader can cajole, criticise, congratulate and chivvy me along if you like the resolution will be blogivised (with apologies to Gil Scott-Heron!)

So The Plan for January is that by the end of the month I will:

1.    finish the draft of the Machu Picchu book and apply for the Northern Writers Awards

2.    be able to run for 8 miles

3.    re-read Happiness and How it Happens by my favourite mindfulness teacher Suryacitta aka Happy Buddha


And on that note I am off for my first run of the year!