Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Don't underestimate the power of


I don't have any myself, but as a self-confessed dog lover, I naturally jumped at the chance to help out with my friend's adorable pooch whilst she was away training for a new job in London.

I've had some experience of pets in the past, namely those belonging to my ex and his family, most memorable of which is the mischievous beagle puppy, Bowser.

Best pals.. Charlie & Buddy
But the four-legged friend in question to which I've been playing 'Auntie Gracie' to, goes by the name of Buddy, and he's absolutely beautiful. A Fox Red Labrador with a heart as big as his appetite.

Buddy hasn't been staying with me at my home - much to my dismay - as he has a good pal in the shape of Golden Lab and all-round softie, Charlie, my friend's housemate's doggy. So I've been making my way up to Laura's several times a week to take Buddy out for walks, play with him and generally shower him in cuddles and ear scratches.

But it wasn't until the other night I realised just how much spending time with Buddy has meant to me. Laura and Adam asked me to stay at the house as conflicting work schedules meant they would both be away, and wouldn't be able to tend to the dogs. Cue Auntie Grace (I like to think of myself as the Mary Poppins of the dog-sitting world!) for a double doggy sleepover.

Buddy, Charlie and I spent a lovely evening cuddled on the sofa watching telly, before Buddy snuggled up at my feet come bedtime. Waking up to a wagging tail and wet nose sniffing at my ear was a more welcomed alarm call than you may think, and such a warm and happy morning greeting set me up for a great day.

So next time you need a bit of a mood boost, have a fuss of your furry friend (or in my case, borrow one off a pal!) and reap the mood-lifting benefits of being a pet owner.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A writer's haven

First and foremost, a brief apology for such a long and unjustified absence on my part. You should know I'm back and more enthused than ever to be doing what I love on a (more) regular basis.

My productivity - or rather lack of - is something I've been thinking about a great deal over the summer. A question I've found myself encountering time and time again is where is the best place to get work done. And much to my excitement I think I've cracked it.

You may be thinking nice, quiet office with a cushy leather office chair. Or you might say the relaxing atmosphere of a Saturday morning sat at your kitchen table, with a freshly squeezed OJ and the dulcet tones of Radio 2 playing softly in the background. Maybe you think you work at your best from the comfort of your bed on a Tuesday night, donning flannel pajamas large Pinot Grigio in hand.

Undoubtedly, all great places to work. Sometimes you need peace and quiet. Sometimes you need Jeremy Vine’s familiar tones. Heck, sometimes all you need is a nice large glass of something cold and Italian to spur you on to meet your word count.

But the best place of all really does come from the huge clichéd stereotype of writers. No, not the washed up, writer’s block-ridden Edward Morra in Limitless, penning his dead-end novel from the familiar squalor of his pigsty of a New York flat.

Equally, it’s not always as glamorous as Carrie Bradshaw makes it out to be, juggling her relationships and shoe collections with deadlines and interviews in the exclusive borough of Manhattan where she resides. Nor is life as a journo always quite as exciting as Tintin’s; the adventurous reporter turned eponymous hero, never without his trusty sidekick Snowy in tow.

So it’ll probably come as no surprise to you when I tell you I’m at my most productive cuddled on a sofa in the corner of a well-known coffee shop chain, hot chocolate in one hand, large calorific pastry in the other.

Writer’s block is something to which I am very familiar, despite my brief career so far. It’s not that you don’t have the ideas or inspiration, it’s that you can’t get them out. I imagine it’s similar to how a mute must feel; thoughts whizzing round your head, and simply no way to get them out, make yourself heard. It’s frustrating, agonizing, and more than anything down right bloody inconvenient. My inconsiderate arsehole of a brain obviously doesn’t appreciate the fact I have deadlines to meet, when it’s playing hide and seek with my ability to string a half-decent sentence together.

So when I’m in the grip of this foul beast (yes, I do personify it, and it really is an awful creature!) I take myself off to a coffee shop and settle myself in a corner where I can see everyone come and go. Before I know it, the juices start flowing – well, I am sort of writing about clichés, why not include a few?! – I type word after word, and sometimes if I’m lucky I read it back and not only does it make sense, but it is vaguely engaging! Huzzah.

By the time I pause for breath, I often find my mocha has gone cold and the population of fellow customers has turned over twice. But it's all worth it, because I've succeeded in putting pen to paper: a fundamental skill often frequently but temporarily disengaged in a writer's existence. I've met my word count, whilst adding some points to my loyalty card. Surely a win win situation for everyone.