Category Archives: Open University

Thirty months on…

There’s a good chance that anyone following my blog will have given up any hope of an update by now, but after two and bit years I have decided to go for a Big Clean-up of my blog site.

Prior to posting this update, I will have removed some of the tabs. Book Reviews has gone, and so has Probate DIY. Neither of these have been updated for almost ten years! The old probate diary is still in print though, and also available as an e-book here.

It has been far too long to cover everything that has been blog-worthy since my previous post, so I won’t even try. There are a couple of highlights though!

After nearly two years of painstaking research, I finished my grandfather’s memoir. It turned out be quite a substantial piece of family history, covering his ancestors back two generations, his three brothers and sister, and significant events in his life between 1885 and 1971. The book is on Amazon here.

Over a year ago I completed the MA in Creative Writing with the OU. If anyone tells you an OU degree is ‘easy’, don’t believe a word of it! I now have four OU qualifications, and although each course of study was immensely enjoyable, they all turned out to be a significant challenge. My brain is getting old!

four certificates

Writing-wise, I like to try my hand at quite different things. My latest fiction book is a short farce – about a quarter the length of a full novel. I found it incredibly difficult to write, mostly because of the need to intertwine the plots, characters, mistaken identities and slightly strange situations in a way that everything comes together at the end. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I probably won’t write another, but it was an interesting experience! It is free to read with Kindle Unlimited, or 99p should you feel like splashing out! If you want to take a look, it is here. Please let me know what you think, and maybe leave a review on Amazon.

Which brings me neatly to the book website. I have updated it along with this blog, so if you would like to know more about my books then please take a look here.

cadebooks website

I really shouldn’t leave it so long before the next update, but…

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Filed under Cade Books, Creative Writing, Open University

NaNoWriMo 2014, Week 4

It feels a tad fraudulent to hang this post on the NaNoWriMo title, because last Friday I had only 4000 words to go and over a week to finish. As it turned out, the miserable weather on Sunday meant I had some extra writing time and managed to complete the competition last weekend.
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Reverend Stocks hoisted himself up and vaulted over the top, landing with a thud the other side. The vicar had expected the back yard to be in darkness, but it was quite brightly lit from the small kitchen window at the back of the shop. He pulled back the bolts top and bottom, and Rufus squeezed past the dustbin and through the gate, looking into the kitchen. Although there were net curtains at the window, it was quite easy to see inside and he could make out the sink directly below him, the door to the shop and the other one leading up the stairs to the flat.
‘There’s nobody here,’ said Rufus as the vicar joined him.
‘What’s that?’
‘What?’ said Rufus.
‘Down there, on the floor, by the door.’
Rufus had to stand on tiptoe to see the floor.
‘It looks like a slipper, or a shoe or something,’ he said.
The vicar tried the handle on the back door, but it wouldn’t budge.
‘I’m getting a bad feeling here,’ he said. ‘Do you think we should break down the door?’
‘Or just call the police?’ replied Rufus. He didn’t want to get into any sort of trouble, not with them already half accusing him of theft.
The vicar had already decided though, and took a run at the door. The wood splintered easily around the lock, and the door flew open with the vicar stumbling over the threshold as it suddenly gave way.
‘Oh my God,’ he said. ‘There’s someone here!’
Rufus ran inside behind him. Myra was laying on the floor behind the shop counter, one foot showing through the door to the kitchen.
‘Myra! Myra! ‘cried Rufus, kneeling beside her and slapping her cheeks with the palms of his hands. ‘Paul, vicar, call an ambulance.’
The vicar picked the receiver up from the telephone on the counter and dialled 999.
‘Myra!’ Rufus kept saying, but she didn’t open her eyes. He felt her neck for a pulse, but there was nothing there so he put his ear to her half-open mouth. Nothing.
The vicar was watching what Rufus was doing as he told the emergency services where to come, and as soon as he finished he crouched down the other side of Myra.
‘She’s gone,’ said Rufus.
The vicar put his ear to Myra’s chest. He got up, slowly.
‘Poor Myra,’ he said. ‘Poor, poor Myra.’
‘What do you think it was?’ asked Rufus.
‘Maybe she died of a broken heart after losing Tom last week?’ said the vicar.
Rufus thought about the insurance policies he had seen in the flat. Myra didn’t seem particularly grief stricken when he was talking to her up there.
‘Perhaps she tripped over something and hit her head?’ said Rufus.
‘Could be,’ replied the vicar. ‘I guess the ambulance people will get the police involved.’
Rufus looked around the shop, but there was nothing unusual as far as he could see. Just the galvanised buckets with flowers in them, most of which had seen better days. Shelves with plant accessories, vases, ribbons and name tags, things that people buy when they buy flowers. A mug on the counter.
‘Looks as though she was having a mug of tea,’ said the vicar.
Rufus picked up the mug. He stared at its contents for a while, then took a small sip, instantly spitting it back into the mug.
‘She was having a drink,’ said Rufus wiping his lips with the back of his hand. ‘But it wasn’t tea.’

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Completing NaNo was exciting and brought much satisfaction, but not as much as receiving the result of my final OU module, U316 The Environmental Web, a week early. This was my third Level 3 module – you only need two for the BA(Hons), but I swung another one under the old funding structure – and it turned up trumps with a Distinction, giving me sufficient points to claim a First Class degree classification. So, that is the end of the Open University journey for me, unless (and this is highly unlikely) I go for a post graduate qualification. Watch this space!

There’s a new project on the table already. Stevenage has more than its fair share of ancient woodland, and in one of the woods where we walk the dogs there is a moat which apparently dates from around the 13th century. It is reported that inside this moat stood a homestead which, of course, is now long gone and the area looks much the same as the rest of the wood. I have been fascinated by the thought of this for many years. What would the homestead have looked like? What was life like for the family? How did they make a living? There appears to be very little information available, but I plan to track down what little there is and paint a mental image of life there 800 years or so ago. Wish me luck!

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Three months on…

I knew this would happen once I started the final OU module, U316 The Environmental Web back in February.  It’s taken over my life.

It was February that I made my last post here, and at the time was making great headway with the Pye Black Box project.  Progress?  None.

The novel I started to write back last November, 50,000 words during November when I took part in NaNoWriMo and which I was enthusiastically adding to.  Progress?  None.

The guitar playing video clips I was making to upload to YouTube showing my musical prowess.  Progress?  None.  (Probably just as well!).

Getting back into online trading after the Big Boys killed off my little book-selling business.  Progress?  None.

Researching the old manor and ghostly monastic goings-on in our local woods.  Progress?  None.

That photography project, where I take a snap of each letter of the alphabet represented by an everyday object.  Progress?  None.

Editing the short book of poetry and prose I have written on and off over the past few years, with a view to self-publishing it.  Progress?  None.

If this all sounds a bit depressing, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The OU module is almost halfway through and is turning out to be one of the most interesting I’ve taken.  There’s still been time for drinking coffee with old friends, walking the labradors, trips around the local towns and villages, smartening up the garden and plenty of time to ‘stand and stare’.  Oh, you haven’t read William Davies’ poem, ‘Leisure’?  Here it is, just in case…

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare

 

Of course, my list of ‘things to do’ is also sitting there ready for when I’ve finished counting dragonflies, watching local wildlife, calculating statistics and generally saving the world from environmental disaster!

Expect some progress soon!

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Filed under Creative Writing, Electronics, NaNoWriMo, Open University

2014 and all that…

You know that thing when old people say they are happy just to wake up every morning?  Well, I felt a teensy bit that way on New Year’s Day.

As the years tick past, it’s difficult not to wonder how many more times you’ll spot Santa skidding across the night sky, wolf down haggis and neeps with a tot or two of Aberlour, open up the Summer House and wipe down the barbecue, swop the winter wheels on the car, fire off a few sky rockets and wrap up Christmas presents.

But, let’s not bother with all that tosh!

I’ve been taking a hard look at the ‘novel’ writing done last November in NaNoWriMo.  It looks like this, by the way…

30 days 1

(Actually, this is just the first few pages, but since you can’t read it anyway…)

It’s taken a good few days, but I think I’ve filled most of the plot holes, made some connecting pieces for the dead ends, and generally made things hang together (you can’t pay much attention to these things when you’re writing 50,000 words in a month!)  I downloaded Evernote Sticky Notes, and now have a sticky for each chapter with a summary on it, coloured either white (ditch it), blue (re-write it), yellow (make major changes or write a new chapter) and green (fine as it is).  For some reason, there are no green stickies.

Sticky Notes is a great piece of free software, but if you decide to try it out, be warned that you need to be on your toes not to be inundated by other stuff they try to install at the same time.

The book will have to take a back seat though in February, when I launch into the final final OU module (regular readers will know I’ve already had one final module but I’m still striving to move my 2.1 to a First!).  It’s U316, an environmental science module.  I’m very sceptical about claims surrounding man-made climate change, but hoping that maybe I’ll get some insight into the arguments.  Should make for some good essays!

Then in April, there’s the old age pension to look forward to!  That’ll be Bucks Fizz, and scrambled egg with smoked salmon every day for brekkies, then.  Not!  But it will seem odd being ‘properly’ retired after doing it early over seven years ago in 2006.

So, there will be some interesting challenges to come this year and I hope to have the time to share the highs and the lows on here.

A Happy New Year to everyone following my blog, and to casual passersby too!

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OU Art of English E301 EMA and Spooky Stuff

Final assignment sent. That’s it.  Finished.

I was expecting to be celebrating at this point, but actually feel quite sad now it’s all over.  After an eclectic mix of modules, from science to book-keeping, from music technology to linguistics, from astronomy to mathematics, from creative writing to, well, more creative writing and then even more creative writing, it feels weird to have no assignment deadlines to meet !

Sometimes the modules have been hair-tearingly frustrating, intermittently mind-numbing, occasionally a trifle tedious, now and again downright difficult, but always personally challenging with barrel-loads of fun thrown in for good measure.   Such a shame it has to end.

Except.  It doesn’t.  Necessarily.  All end.  Well, it could.  I can lay claim to my degree, but unlinked my first Level 3 module last year because the result was a Pass 2.  To get a 1st, I need a second Level 3 module to come in with a Distinction and believe me, E301 – The Art of English is simply not going to oblige. So I might, just a teeny bit might, take another module.  But who would care except me if I got a 2.1 or a 1st?  What can an early-retired 64-year-old do with a BA(Hons), anyway ?

Watch this space!

In the meantime, we experienced a strange event last week.  We were walking the dogs at Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage, as we do each day, when an evil-looking dog emerged from the woods.  Head low to the ground, deep rib-cage, hollowed belly, muscular hindquarters raised up high, straight out of a horror film.  Then a few feet behind, followed a middle-aged woman with long grey hair and wearing a red coat.  They walked slowly to the centre of the park, the dog laid down and the woman stood, quite still, watching us playing fetch with the Labradors.  After a while, we decided she might be waiting for us to move on before exercising her dog, so we did just that.  After a few yards, I turned around to see she was still watching us, and turned back the way we were headed.  Barely two seconds later, my wife did the same, but commented that the woman with the dog had gone. We looked carefully around the perimeter of the park, which is probably at least 75 yards in every direction from where the woman was standing, but neither she nor the dog was to be seen.  75 yards in two seconds?

Spooky.

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