Back to Black


That’s the sound I made as I fell back down to Earth the other day. Back to real life. Back home. Back to work. Back to black.

Last year I had the summer-end blues. This year the blues are black. Black and blue like the big fat bruise on my thigh where I bumped it against the hideous table in our rented holiday home. An old-fashioned massive wooden table, standing in the dining-room of an even older-fashioned French villa built in 1895, and which obviously hadn’t seen a lick of paint or a new roll of wallpaper since then.  Ancient and ugly as hell but perfectly heavenly for us.

It was the place to sleep, to dream, to talk and laugh as we sat on the beige velvet sofa watching the rain pour down outside.

The perfect place to entertain family, friends, kids both big and small. For all of us to eat and drink and sing on the covered terrace. And dance. A bit.

It was a place that creaked and groaned. The shutters clacked against the stone walls. The fridge roared. Our dirty clothes whirred crazily in a jet-engined machine. And dishes clinked in unison inside a cleaning contraption built in the middle ages.

And it was a place to contemplate – life, love, the universe, where to eat dinner, how to tame my fluffy, bleached, holiday hair.

Above all it was the place to forget. About work. About problems . About work problems. Forget how to drive a car or what the inside of a supermarket looks like. Forget about make-up. And jewellery. And the delicious feel of softly tumbled towels or perfectly dry laundry. Forget what an alarm clock sounds like. Or what the shape of an iron or a kettle or a toaster looks like.

But more than that it was the place and the time to neglect this silly compulsive habit. Writing, blogging, posting, commenting.  All were pushed to the back of my mind for three whole weeks. That’s the equivalent of three decades in blog years.

Twenty-one days of peace and quiet and paperbacks and magazines and funny TV shows and all that nineties nonsense. Five hundred and four hours of doing other stuff except blogging. Over thirty thousand minutes spent without scribbling on my pet iPad.

That’s a lot of minutes.

No damned wonder I’m feeling down. I missed you, dearest keyboard. I missed the fine mist of words you spray regularly onto this page. I missed the feel of your little white letters sliding beneath my fingertips. Just touching you now, I can feel the darkness lifting already.

I’m not back to black. I’m just back.


Artwork courtesy of Cas van de Goor.

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Guest blogger: Juliet Nubel Young – Stronger than Me

Recently I took a stroll over to Sue Vincent’s site and invited myself in. Thank you Sue for letting me be your guest and share my thoughts…

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Fate picked me up in my hometown of Glasgow many light years ago and since that day it has moved me around the dog-eared map which has gradually become my life.

It moved me eastwards to follow my studies. It moved me south to follow my heart. It even took me far, far west, over the Atlantic, to follow a dream. But it has brought me back to the place which I now call home, where my love is, my family is, and where my pet iPad is, sitting quietly on my knee, letting me stroke its smooth keys with my eager, hungry fingers. And where I live now, in the west of France, we have an expression to describe this, and indeed any, strangely compulsive activity:

“C’est plus fort que moi.”  It is stronger than me.

What exactly is stronger? The urge, the need, the intense magnetic…

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The Bench

There were four of them. Like parrots sitting on a perch, squawking and preening. The three ladies were ruffling their white-feathered heads and the gentleman was sitting watching, touching his own balding crown with a worn and wrinkled claw.

Their hands then crossed simultaneously over the handles of their walking sticks, three of them bright and flowery, one dark and serious, resting until their owners needed their help to finally stand up and move on, away from the bench, away from the bustle of the little city supermarket. A carrier bag sat just as patiently in front of each one. They seemed flat and empty, not bulging and overflowing like mine, which I was filling to the brim before setting them into my trolley, all the time watching these beautiful old people chatter as they sat.

Part of me wanted to cry at their dependence. On what? Their sticks, the minibus driver taking them back to the home, the bench to support their exhausted limbs.

Part of me wanted to smile. At what? Their patience, their acceptance of the wait, their friendship, their hooting laughter.

So I did both, hoping that none of them would look over at me and see the tears dripping down past the corners of my upturned mouth.

I wondered what’s better. Being old, dependent and tired? Or being struck down well before the aches and pains set in?

Dear Destiny-Decider, please gimme the dependence, the tired legs, the feathery hair and the walking stick. I’ll take them all, and will bring them along one day as I laugh with my shopping buddies on our very own bench.

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph, Alamy Photgraphs

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One last goodbye…

“Can we say one last goodbye? Just the four of us, please.”

The plea came from so deep within his heart that of course we would never have refused him this one small act of homage. He deserved this and she deserved it even more.

The only light came from the stars and the almost full moon as we approached the cemetery gates. But then we saw another glow coming from the flickering of a sole candle, her candle. It moved shadows gently over the pristine white stone of her brand new grave.

“I’m scared, Dad. I don’t know if I can do this.” Our youngest was shivering with apprehension, her eyes bright with a fear we hadn’t known was there.

“Can you do it for your Mamie? And for me. Please.” Her father’s words and voice strengthened her resolve.

We held hands like we had done every day, many years ago, and we pushed open the iron gate and entered as one.

How we did it I will never really know, but we made our way through the aisles, past the headstones, the crosses, the real and the plastic flowers. Past the largest vaults and the tiniest mounds of earth. The single lit candle guided our steps and kept our eyes clear.

Her name, in gold, shone brightly from the pale stone. Recently carved, the letters had seen but one day of sunshine. No raindrops had yet soiled their swirling grooves and gliding curves. They were about to spend their first night outdoors, watching the sky and listening to the darkness. Remembering all the tears spilt only hours before.

And as we stood in silence at the end of the newly closed grave we heard the same sounds – the crickets, the toads, the screeching nocturnal birds. The same salty tears coursed quickly down our cheeks.

For nine long months she had waited patiently to leave the house. Waited for the chestnut tree to be lush and green and large enough to hide her ashes at its feet. Waited for the grass in the field to dry out and welcome her in. Nine whole months sitting quietly above the fireplace until they were ready to let her go.

Finally ready to place the rest of her beneath this stone and wish her one last goodbye.

Photo courtesy of Matador Network

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Midweek Night Chill

This is similar to Saturday Night Fever but in the middle of the week and without the tight flared trousers.

And thanks to this highly unexpected Chill I have found the definition of The Perfect Evening.

The Perfect Evening means coming home late, getting changed into pyjama bottoms and a dirty grey t-shirt. Then it translates into sitting together on the saggy red couch, Hubby reading out the names of my favourite chilled songs, me typing them into my pet iPad, hearing the first three notes and swooning with pleasure as I save them onto my newest, coolest, chillest playlist. 

The Perfect Evening is forgetting about dinner, so engrossed are we in this beautifully harmonised duet.

Then as hunger passes, The Perfect Evening means dancing, as one, to this deliciously hypnotic music.

A fly on the wall spied us, Hubby with his white work shirt open to the waist, me dressed in my Sunday morning best, bopping and moving and laughing and grooving.

Quietly it murmured to its wife:

‘Why go to Barbados for three weeks when all we really need is a Midweek Night Chill like this to keep our marriage buzzing’.

Too true, Mr Fly. But take her to Barbados anyway. The buzz you’ll find there will keep you flying high for a long, long time.

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Gullible’s Travels: 10 Ways To Avoid Falling Prey To Vanity Publishing Scams

A very personal piece on publishing scams. Feel free to share this. It might help someone, somewhere.

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

Don’t forget: the July Word Weaver WRITING CONTEST is about to start!

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed



and best of all

the first 20 entries will be critiqued BY ME

dan your humble host

Occasionally we turn the reins over to a friend of the blog so they can share their experience in writing – some good, some bad – for the benefit of others.

Juliet Nubel recently mentioned some of her awful experiences to me as she pursued traditional publishing for her book. I asked her to share some of what she learned from the process – and I’ll ask you to share your horror stories as well, so we can all learn what to avoid.

Here’s Juliet.


Recently, after writing a guest post for Dan on how I had cowardly abandoned my first and only book, I made a remarkable discovery.

That book, which I had imagined to be dead…

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Me, a Writer? Guest Blog Post By Juliet Nubel

It’s Guest Blog week for me! This time on Dan Alatorre’s site. Get a cup of tea folks – this one is long…Thanks for posting it Dan.

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

danOccasionally we turn the reins over to a friend of the blog so they can share their experience in writing – some good, some bad – for the benefit of others.

Here’s Juliet.

When Dan, very kindly and unexpectedly, replied to one of the comments I’d made to the wonderful J.A Allen about guest blogging, inviting me to press on his Contact Me button to chat, I almost did a slapstick comedy double take. Surely he hadn’t meant to reply to little old me? I read through the other comments to see if he had corrected his mistake elsewhere. Nope.

So I sent him a quick, nervous email to make sure.

Yes, he was really allowing me, an unknown baby blogger, to put together a piece which he would post on his site

written on anything I fancied that would interest you, his faithful gang of readers.

A quick check…

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Lovingly He Held Her Head Underwater

My first ever guest post on J.A.Allen’s fabulous site. A very different experience for me but a great one. Thanks Jenny!

J. A. Allen

A Guest Blogby Juliet Nubel.kjb.png

For the last few Sunday mornings, when Jenny’s Scribble Challenge email lands in my inbox after a short flight across the Atlantic Ocean, I have opened it and laughed.

What would I possibly have to write aboutA Mother’s Twisted Love when my own mother unquestionably loves every square inch of my body and soul? An hour later, after getting my shoes out of the cupboard under the stairs I had the creepy idea of a child being tied up and locked away.

Phobias? I don’t have any phobias, I boasted to the cats, the only ones who actually listen to me around here. Bang on cue, a wasp flew into the kitchen through the open door and my declaration flew out the window. I don’t just have a phobia of wasps, I have a debilitating and ferocious fear.

But when I opened the third…

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Oh those Summer Nights…

It’s summertime. Today is the longest day of the year. Thus the shortest night too.

As I write it’s almost ten pm and the sun is just about still up, around the front of the house, donning its pyjamas, brushing its teeth, getting ready to retire from my view. But it won’t be asleep for long.

And neither will I. 

Although I love this thick, feather quilt heat which descends upon my back and shoulders as I step outside, it tires me out, making me shuffle about my business rather than strut through my day. I’m lifeless, dopey and dull. 

But the heat of the day isn’t the problem. It’s the heat of the night which eats my energy, spitting it out in the morning, leaving me stumbling along, searching for somewhere to snooze.

Because when it’s this hot (38° Celsius today) we have to do something at night-time that we never do. Open the windows.

We would die if we didn’t, so that is not an option. Reluctantly we throw them wide open and let the noisy night rush in.

We hear cars in the distance. Motorbikes racing on the empty motorway. Cats wailing. Dogs barking. Hedgehogs scratching. We hear the trains to Paris chugging quickly along the tracks on the other side of town. Soon the party-goers return home, pull up and park, shout goodnight, then beep goodbye. 

At three in the morning we sleep at last, the hum of the city outside like a sea shell held up to our ears.

But at four thirty the newpapers are delivered. He stops his car at every home, steps out, steps back in, slams the door and drives another foot.

Then the trucks start up again on their way to work. Hundreds must go through and around our town, unloading our breakfast, lunch and dinner to the markets and stores in the surrounding streets.

And at five o’clock the singing begins. If I weren’t so tired I would love their chirpy tunes. But what on earth do they have to say to each other at this time in the morning? Does anyone know? Or are all the birds in the world just delighted to waken us well before our alarm clock rings?

The sky is still blue now but edged with pale yellow and streaks of pink.

It’s almost time for bed. But it will be hours before we sleep.

Photo courtesy of 4everN3rdy

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The Bigger Picture

Standing on the hillside with the Sicilian sun warming our backs, I started to realise just how insignificant we all are.  Mere grains of sand on this huge beach of life. Miniscule morsels of meat with a very short sell-by date, walking on paths where others have walked before us.  Many, many others.
Exactly how many others, I wondered, had stood on this ancient place of worship, looking out over this turquoise bay, feeling the gentle wind blow through their hair, as we were at that very moment?


Imagine my hair blowing in the breeze at the archeological museum, Kamarina Bay, Sicily

Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

How will I ever know? All we saw were the remains of what had been built on this grassy hilltop five hundred years before J.C. arrived and made us all start counting. We were atop a Greek temple (I had no idea the Greeks had colonised Sicily, but then I am very historically challenged), erected in a very precise spot at a very precise angle to pray to Athena, the goddess of many things. I was sure someone at the archeological museum told us that Athena ran the fertility department but I’ve just read that her main concerns were wisdom and warfare. Surely the two do not walk quietly hand in hand?

Anyway, where were we? Peering down on huge blocks of stone left standing from over two thousand five hundred years ago. The sheer existence of them made me begin to wonder who will be standing where I am right now in two thousand five hundred years time? Will anyone be standing at all? Will humanity be comfortably sitting in those Wall-E-type hover-chairs? Will there be anyone left on Earth by then? Will there even be an Earth to hover around on?



Look at this beautiful vase!

The Greeks, however, certainly knew how to build things to last. The remnants of their time on Sicily are highly and unbelievably sophisticated. Huge, almost intact urns; beautifully decorated vases; tiny, exquisitely shaped dishes; coins; statuettes; glass bottles. They produced items which would see the faces of curious, sunburnt tourists staring at them through glass cabinets in museums twenty-five centuries later. The mind boggles.

But what will we leave for our grand(times a hundred)children? What will survive the test of time and stroll through the next hundred generations unscathed? Not much I imagine.
And what will I personally leave as a lasting legacy? My four false front teeth may be discovered intact under the foundations of our house which will have crumbled to dust long before they will. My diamond ring will survive I’m sure. It may even be on the finger of one of my many descendants, unless one of them pawns it before it gets that far down the line. All other proof of my time here will have turned to ashes and dirt.

Except perhaps my words, which hopefully will be passed down from iPad to iPad until they reach the new iPad2500. And someone in the year 4517 may consult the one attached to their eyeball, inadvertently blink on my blog, then ponder lengthily over the inane ramblings which were written in days of yore.

Much will have happened by then, too much to even begin to imagine. Billions more grains of sand will have been washed up on this beach.

But I’m pretty sure those big Greek stones will still be standing proudly in Kamarina Bay. And whatever remains of humanity will be able to teleport themselves over there in the bat of an i-lid and hover above them in awe.


Athena’s Temple. Perfect for hovering visitors in the future.










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