A Hull of a City

So Kingston-Upon-Hull has been named the UK City of Culture 2017. I should imagine there has been a lot of surprise about that decision – not least from residents of Hull itself. We don’t expect a lot here, frankly. Hull has been the butt of so many jokes and so much derision over the years that to receive such a massive compliment takes some getting used to.

Where is Hull? Someone once asked a friend of mine, on hearing where she was from, ‘Hull? Isn’t that a fishing village in Yorkshire?’ There’s no escape from the jokes and derogatory comments. Even watching a programme about Dr Who brings no relief. In an episode called “Blink”, a girl is touched by a weeping angel and transported back to 1920s Hull. ‘And if you want to know what that’s like,’ said the oh-so-witty presenter, ‘go to Hull now.’

Wrong! Hull has a wonderful history and one that we are very proud of, but it is also a very forward-looking place, moving on in the face of adversity. Dear old Hull hasn’t had it easy, make no mistake about that.

It started as a little settlement called Wyke, where the mighty Humber meets the River Hull, used by the monks of Meaux Abbey as a base for transporting wool. First mentioned in the twelfth century it rapidly grew in importance and stature. In 1299 Edward I bestowed a royal charter upon it and it became King’s Town Upon Hull and in Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee year of 1897 it finally achieved city status.

Hull is the largest settlement in the East Riding of Yorkshire, so we Hullensians are Yorkshire born and proud of it, but we are also a little apart. There’s something “on the edge” about Hull. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been here, but geographically it is so remote that it feels like it’s just that little bit outside of things. We’re the end of the road, the end of the railway line. Hull is just twenty minutes from the North Sea. Head east and marvel at the flat, sweeping plains and bleak beauty of Holderness. Head in the other direction to the glorious, rolling Yorkshire wolds. Visit the Humber Bridge at nearby Hessle and look across the Humber to Lincolnshire. You can be in Whitby within an hour and a half, Scarborough or the Yorkshire Moors within the hour.

But what about Hull itself? Look, I’m from Hull. I was born here. Not so long ago, and for a very long time, I was almost embarrassed to admit that. Endless digs about this city took its toll. Being named the worst place to live in the UK by Phil and Kirstie didn’t help, nor did being featured in a list of “crap towns”. But I challenge anyone who thinks it’s fun to look down their nose at this place to actually come here and take a look round.

Hull has struggled, make no mistake about it. But Hull is good at fighting back. Good at fighting for what it believes in. It was one of the first places to take action during the Civil War when, in 1642, the town refused entry to the king. Hull became a Parliamentary outpost surrounded by royalist strongholds. During the Second World War it was the most badly-bombed city outside London. Easy to spot, set on the banks of the huge Humber, it became a regular target. Not only that, but failed bombing missions by the Germans would result in their planes dropping their bombs on Hull before heading out to sea towards home.

Known only as a ‘Northern coastal town’ Hull’s suffering was largely kept quiet, but there was hardly a street that wasn’t affected. Even in the late 1960s I remember the piles of brick and rubble at the back of my grandparents’ house that used to be a terrace – a wartime bomb site that was just one of many to be cleared all those years later.

Hull was once a thriving fishing port, and there are few families who didn’t have someone who went to sea or worked on the docks. In the 1970s the Cod War brought untold misery to the fishing families. The industry declined rapidly and brought Hull almost to its knees.  The communities built around fishing were broken up, the houses pulled down, families moved to other, newer areas of the city.

Researching my family tree, it struck me that I wouldn’t be here if the city hadn’t attracted so many people to it from other places. I have ancestors from Ireland, who found sanctuary here after fleeing from the famine in the mid nineteenth century. I have a Prussian fisherman ancestor who came here with his ship, met a local girl and married and settled here. I have ancestors whose work brought them from Manchester, Scotland, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Shropshire, who chose to stay here and make a life for themselves in Hull. The city took them in and gave them work and because of that, I am here. Today, Hull gives shelter and work to a variety of people from many countries.  There are people from Poland, India, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, China and many other countries who are happy to call Hull home.

Hull is the birthplace of William Wilberforce, the MP who fought to abolish slavery. It’s the home of Amy Johnson, the pioneer aviator. Andrew Marvell was born here. Other famous Hullensians include Maureen Lipman, John Alderton, Tom Courtenay, Stevie Smith, Olympic boxing champion Luke Campbell, Benidorm creator Derren Litten, novelist Russ Litten, and Mick Ronson. People who have lived and worked in Hull include Philip Larkin,  John Prescott, Anthony Minghella, Andrew Motion, The Housemartins. Writer Valerie Wood lives near Hull and her marvellous novels are set in the Hull and Holderness of a past century.

We have literary festivals, jazz festivals, the Freedom Festival…we have a huge annual fair which people travel to from all over England to visit or take part in. We have a fabulous museum quarter with free admission to all, an amazing art gallery, three great shopping centres, a beautiful marina, the famous Hull Truck Theatre as well as the New Theatre in Kingston Square, the beautiful Holy Trinity Church – soon to be Hull Minster – an old town with cobbled streets and ancient pubs, a train station that boasts a life-size statue of poet Philip Larkin, an award winning aquarium, The Deep, restaurants, shops, cinemas, an ice arena, a great cafe culture, a popular university, a medical school, colleges, an attractive city centre that is largely pedestrianised, a premier football club, hugely successful and fanatically-supported rugby teams, the UK’s only independent telephone exchange and our unique cream telephone boxes.

We have an accent that is just that bit different to the rest of Yorkshire, and a population that laughs, loves, and keeps smiling, no matter what life throws at it. We have a fish pavement. Yes, really! How many people can say that? Oh, and as you journey around Hull you may notice that we also have a collection of toads. Large toads. It’s quite surprising where you find them!

So, yes, I’m from Hull. Kingston-Upon-Hull, the UK City of Culture 2017. And I’m very proud of that fact.

Why don’t you pop by one day and take a look for yourself? You may be surprised.

Have a great week xx

But Seriously, Folks…

I had a strange thought this morning. Quite unbidden, it popped into my head as I dragged my sorry carcass from the bed and began sorting laundry ready for a day feeding the washing machine.

‘You don’t take writing seriously,’ it said.

I don’t know where it came from. I had opened my eyes and, before my first yawn was finished, was already thinking that I needed to get the washing done, should really start organising the little bedroom, and wondering what time DH would be up (he works nights) and what time to get the Sunday roast ready.  I hadn’t even thought about writing. And that’s when my subconscious tapped me on the shoulder and coughed not very discreetly.

‘You seem to have forgotten that you haven’t written anything since Wednesday and you’re way behind with your NaNo novel.’

Ah yes, NaNoWriMo. Let me tell you something about that. When I first entered NaNo in 2011 – was it really only two years ago? – I was full of excitement and enthusiasm. I had religiously plotted out the novel scene by scene and knew exactly where it was all going. On the first of November I set to work, and by the thirtieth I had one hundred and twenty thousand words completed. Honestly.

It was the first draft of what would eventually become the novel I sent to the RNA NWS in August but, believe me, there wasn’t much of the original material left in there by the time I sent it off. Still, that’s where the seeds were planted, the foundations laid, and I was extremely proud of myself for having completed it.

In 2012 I entered again and managed to complete sixty odd thousand words by the middle of November. I never added any more to that. I had achieved winner status and had begun what I thought would be book two. In the meantime, I was more keen to get back to book one, which is what I did.

Now, here we are in 2013, and I entered again, although half-heartedly, and not sure if I would achieve much. After all, I had just moved house and had a lot on my mind and was very – well – busy. I have written in fits and starts, probably writing about seven days out of the sixteen that have passed. I haven’t even bothered to log on to the official website and update my word count.  And I can’t say that this time it’s because I’m working on another novel. I’m not.

The truth is, I have become so bogged down in “ordinary” life again that I have pushed writing way down the list. Reconciling with DH has been quite tense. Learning to live with someone again after ten months apart, and having to please no one but myself, has been difficult. I’ve had to re-learn the art of compromise, not always successfully. Moving to a new house – lovely as it is – has been incredibly stressful. There are big changes at work and a feeling of unease that’s quite unsettling. My children have problems I worry about, my grandchildren are too appealing to resist, and there is the excitement of finding out two more are on the way for next year. Moving has been expensive and our expenses are going up and up, unlike our wages…my mind is constantly going over all these things and that’s before I even start to think about Christmas. I don’t think I’ll start to think about Christmas.

So where has that left my writing? High and dry, that’s where. And that little voice this morning made me think. I don’t take it seriously. If I did, it would be higher on my list of priorities instead of always being the first thing that I put off in order to do something else. It’s difficult. Writing isn’t my career. I have a job that keeps the roof over my head. I don’t make any money from writing and I don’t really ever expect that I will. But just because I don’t earn anything from it, does that mean it shouldn’t be a priority?

I am constantly day-dreaming about my characters and their lives, and coming up with new stories and plotlines. I sit at the bus stop in a morning thinking of possible titles. I often have my phone out, using the memo facility to record snatches of conversation that have amused me, or a name that’s caught my attention, or to write a note to myself to check a detail later. If it means that much to me, shouldn’t I be putting other pursuits to one side and treating the writing with the respect it deserves?

So, blog post done for the week, today I am going to be tapping away at my novel in between loading the washing machine and cooking the dinner, and tonight I shall update my word count on the NaNo site and tomorrow I shall get up earlier before work and write some more. But more importantly, I shall change the setting in my brain which says that writing is just a hobby – something I can do when I’m not doing anything else. Writing is my part time job. It may never earn me a penny but it’s saved me. When things were really bad in the real world, if I hadn’t had my fictional one to escape to I don’t know what I’d have done. Time to give it the respect it deserves. Things just got serious.

Have a great week xx

Wannabe A Writer?/Wannabe A Writer We’ve Heard Of? by Jane Wenham-Jones

These books are excellent. They made me laugh out loud as well as providing lots of very useful information and inspiration. They’re written in a very easy to read manner and I couldn’t put them down. These are the books that I picked up when I first had the idea for the novel I am currently working on and wanted some advice and encouragement. They gave me the inspiration and belief to give it a go and I will always be grateful for that.  I realise how hard it is to get published but these books reminded me of the sheer joy of getting all those characters and plotlines that swirl endlessly round my head onto paper. Sheer hard slog but so worth it even if it never sees the light of day. The first book  is more about the life of a writer and the nuts and bolts of getting down to the actual craft. The second deals with the problem of how to get your book “out there” – the marketing, the publicity, the self-publicizing that is essential if you want to sell your book to anyone other than your great Aunt Martha. If you want to write and need something to motivate you in a fun and friendly way these are the books for you. After that, get on with the writing! 5/5

Click Here To Buy

Wannabe a Writer?

Wannabe a Writer?

Wannabe a Writer We've Heard Of?

Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of?

Back In Business

It seems like ages since I blogged here last. Well, that’s probably because it was ages. I feel I am a very bad hostess. I keep popping up and then disappearing again, don’t I? I do have an excuse though. (Don’t I always?)

So, where was I? Oh yes. A lot has happened since we chatted last. DD2 got married and the wedding went wonderfully well. Mrs and Mrs both looked absolutely beautiful and there were no hitches of any kind and they are now settled in marital bliss and excitedly planning their forthcoming – if rather belated – honeymoon. They are off on a safari and then to a luxury all-inclusive hotel in Africa so you can imagine how much anticipation there is. Speaking as someone who has never been further than Ayr in the north and Land’s End in the south and has never possessed a passport, I am pretty impressed!

The driving test came and went. I failed. Yep, after all that preparation and study it went very pear-shaped on the actual day. Nerves just took over and ruined the whole thing. Having said that, totting up the minors, I would still have passed if I hadn’t made a big mistake and entered a roundabout in the wrong lane. The worst thing is I knew I was doing it. As we approached I kept telling myself, “you need to be in the other lane” but, for some reason, I was completely frozen. I couldn’t make myself do anything about it. Needless to say I was pretty frustrated and upset, not least because I didn’t have another seventy pounds to book another test! It will have to wait until after Christmas now.

I moved back in with DH! Yes, after ten months apart we are now reunited, and it was much less traumatic than I feared. In fact, it very quickly felt like we’d never been apart, except that we have figured out what went wrong last time and are now making damn sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. He is like a new man which is quite interesting! I spent five weeks living at his “bachelor pad” while we awaited the keys to our new house. That was difficult as it was a tiny little place and (horror!) there was no broadband connection and I couldn’t even get a signal on my mobile phone. That’s the reason I haven’t blogged. See, I told you I had a perfectly good excuse! We are now settled into our new home and I absolutely love it. I haven’t felt this settled in a very long time. 🙂

I got my report back from the NWS reader. It actually arrived on the morning of the wedding, but I put it away and tried not to dwell on it till the following day because I didn’t want the wedding ruined if it was bad news. When everything had calmed down and I was all alone sipping a cup of steadying tea the next day, I carefully unpacked the slightly battered package and took out the report. It was good news! There were lots of positives and some real praise in there. I was amazed! There was one major plot point that needed looking at, which, having given the matter some thought I could see made perfect sense, and a couple of minor tweaks that will tighten the story and improve it. The reader had given me some really useful pointers and made me see things which, after they were pointed out, I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t seen them for myself. I guess that’s the point. After working so long on a piece of writing you just lose your  perspective. You can no longer see it properly. An outside view is desperately needed and that’s what this provided. I have not touched the manuscript yet. I plan to leave it for a few more weeks then get to work on the changes.

So what am I working on right now? Well, obviously, I am pretty busy with the new house which is still littered with boxes waiting to be unpacked and some of my belongings are still at my daughter’s house. I used to live in her spare bedroom – did I ever mention? However, being me and a bit dim, I decided that a little thing like having no internet and being in the middle of a chaotic mess wouldn’t stop me from entering NaNoWriMo for the third year running, so I did. And to date my total is….zero words.

A whole first week of the challenge has passed and I still haven’t begun to write. However, I do have a rough plan for book two and I will begin very soon. There’s still time to hit the fifty thousand words isn’t there? I know it’s a bit of a tall order but I do love a challenge…

If any of you are frantically NaNo-ing as I write (and if you are, what on earth are you doing reading this? Get back to the writing!) I would like to wish you the best of luck. It’s a fantastic idea and I have had two successful years previously which have resulted in rough drafts of the book I have just got back from my NWS reader, and a sequel which I realise will be book three in the series. I really don’t want it to be third time unlucky. Fingers crossed!

Have a great week xx