Busy half term. Visited Cambridge with my daughter and her daughters. It’s so long since I was last there and it took a while for the memory to click in. It was a glorious autumnal day but cold first thing and I think there was a graduation taking place because there were so many people around. We peered over the bridge on the river to see the punting, the people on the boats looking relaxed at the gentle pace. With two year old Millie we decided against it as we had visions of her disappearing into the Cam.  No time for writing just now so it will be good to get back to it next week. No luck so far with the short stories – People’s Friend is a hard nut to crack!  I tried 30 years or so with them when I was writing a lot of short stories but never got anywhere – it is becoming quite a personal challenge. I have enjoyed writing them however and they are never wasted as they can produce a good character to use later on. Don’t throw anything away because when you look at something again, a new idea often occurs.

A fellow writer has been visiting for a few days and we talked about writing a lot as writers do when they are let loose. Only another writer understands the process. I was reminded how important it is for a writer to listen to snatches of conversation you might overhear – it’s astonishing how indiscreet people can be sometimes in a café where you can’t help but overhear. You are just catching a moment in time because you don’t know these people and you don’t know what’s going to happen next but, as a writer, you can drum up all sorts of things. Even a chance remark though can spark off an idea.  The opening sentence for A Cuckoo’s Nest was stolen from a friend who was telling me about a dinner party she had hosted – can I use that? I asked her because it struck me as funny and she said of course.  So if you are a new writer be aware that ideas are everywhere.

Just returned from a trip up north to Preston, Lancashire.  I always get a warm feeling when I see the first sign on the motorway saying Preston because even though it’s  a long time since I lived there, it’s still my home town. It’s odd when you visit a place you were once so familiar with for parts of it remain just the same.  I went along to the Park School reunion and met up with some old friends. These are ladies that I see infrequently but we slot easily together with so many shared memories. In fact, one of these reunions was the inspiration for Olivia’s Garden where the story centres on 3 schoolgirl friends because I wanted to explore the idea that people never really change and that there is something special about childhood friendships.

Visited Rock (opposite Padstow) yesterday. Beautiful October day and the car park was very nearly full. It’s great to see so many visitors this late in the season.  Had fish and chips (best fish ever) at the Blue Tomato Café overlooking the sea and the yachts.  Dogs love it here too, great for walkies along the beach although the tide being in limited that yesterday.  Did a bit of writing when I got back. My new novel is moving on now.

Walking by the river at Tavistock the other day, I saw a cormorant sitting on the trunk of the tree that fell into the river in a winter storm and still remains there.  The bird, he or she I don’t know which, was showing off and attracting a small audience as people realized what it was. Stretching out its wings – what a wingspan! – it preened itself, in no hurry to do any fishing.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a bird before and it was lovely to see it there.  The River Tavy is spectacular at that point although just now it’s a mere trickle compared to what it can be after a lot of rain.

I’ve written a few short stories lately but I sneaked back into the novel I am working on the other day, re-reading it from the beginning and taking it from there.  Time away from it has been good and useful and given me some fresh ideas. Don’t be afraid to put a piece of work aside for a while if it feels as if it is going stale.