J is for Jigsaws of Lockdown


I was never interested in jigsaws until I met my sister-in-law Linda, who is a jigsaw enthusiast. It has become a therapeutic help in difficult days and something creative-esque to concentrate on when words will not come. So here’s a few of the jigsaws from over the last few months.

This is my most recent one. I had done a lot of 500 piece jigsaws and wanted something a bit more challenging so went for this 1000 piece one.

It took some time. The trees were a nightmare. If I have lots of pieces in but I know they are not right, I’ll take a photo of the section and examine it closely against the lid, to see where I’m going wrong. The last 30/40 pieces of this came out and went back in quite a few times before I got it right!

The three jigsaws below are part of a set of four x 500 pieces puzzles. I didn’t do the fourth one as it was of the inside of the the green truck and was just rows and rows of tins. I hadn’t got the nervous energy for that one 😀

These three are from another box of four x 500 puzzles. The theme is seasons, specifically holidays within them. May Day, Harvest and Bonfire Night. I couldn’t bring myself to do the Christmas one!

This is my favourite one of late. A 500 piece puzzle that took almost as long as the 1000 piece up the top. I enjoyed it though. 🙂

Next up are these babies 🙂 I spent some birthday money on these second hand-beauties. One of them is still sealed in its plastic.

So any jigsaw fans out there?

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I is for Inspiration


I have a terrible habit of waiting for inspiration to strike before I sit down to write, even though I know, I should just sit down and do some work! Thriller writer Helen Hanson, is quoted as saying, “Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll.”

When I started writing, it was so much easier. Or it felt easier. I couldn’t wait to write. I had stories bursting out of me. These days, they are often dragged out of me. As I’ve mentioned before, lockdown has not been as productive for me as it has for others, but I’m not hitting myself over the head about it 😀

As tomorrow is a new school term, I’m going to use it to get back into a more structured week. So I’m going to complete the next quarter on my 2021 writing plan and I’m going to turn up at my desk regularly to see what happens! I love this quote from Peter Prange. “Instead of discussing with myself every morning whether I feel inspired or not, I step into my office every day at nine sharp, open the window and politely ask the muse to enter and kiss me. Sometimes she comes in, more often she does not. But she can never claim that she hasn’t found me waiting in the right place.”

Not sure I will be there every day, and I doubt I’ll make 9am but I intend to go in search of inspiration rather than wait for it to find me. Have you any tips for me? Where do you get your inpspiration from???

H is for Happy Birthday Da


I’m a bit out of it today. I had my first Covid vaccine on Wednesday and I have all the expected symptoms. I am very grateful for it tho, and impressed at the efficient organisation at the local vaccine centre.

Today I’m thinking about my dad (in between snoozes). He would have been 91 today. Lockdown would not have suited him AT ALL. He loved company and would have wanted to celebrate his birthday with as many as possible. I wish I had the brain power to tell a story. Instead I’m going to share a letter I wrote to him, a couple of years after he died.

I don’t think I’ve shared this before. Sorry if you’ve read it already.

Dear Dad,

I want to ask you something. Don’t worry, I don’t need money (this time).

It feels a bit weird to be writing to you, but of course I’ve left it too late to talk you about this. You’re not surprised though, are you? I know, I’m usually late. You must have come to expect it by now.

The last time I wrote you a letter (a proper one, not a post card or a note), do you remember Da? It was when I went to New Zealand for three months. We’d said goodbye with a silent tight hug. Tight lipped, nodding quickly and blinking. I wrote a letter to you before the plane landed in Auckland. You replied telling me that you’d waited until I left the house before you cried. 

So, I have finally gotten around to writing to you again—because I have to write to you. I can’t talk to you now, but to be honest it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to really talk to you.

Awh Da, your poor head. For almost 30 years you struggled to reach past the dent in your skull and make sense of the world. Sometimes you managed to do it. Every so often you’d start to talk or start to sing and there you’d be. Our Da. You’d be back—just for a few minutes. But by the time we’d acknowledged you were back, you’d be gone again.

I know you don’t remember that day. But I remember it well. I was thirteen and headed off on the bus to go stay with Aunty May. I just missed seeing you being flung into the air by a car. Next day I was told you had a broken leg. Did I know it was worse? How could I have known? Maybe it’s hindsight that makes me think I felt it was more serious. Either way—life was never the same and neither were you.

Sorry Da, I’m waffling and have gone off the point. What I wanted to ask was…do you know what you did for us?

There are so many things. The lesson in covering books stands out. You sat with us, showing how to measure the amount of paper needed. Using the least amount of sellotape. The difference between a stapled book and a book with a thick solid spine. Da! I’m an expert now. I could do it with my eyes closed.

And Christmas—your love and enthusiasm for Christmas was matchless. And of course, the covering books lesson was closely aligned to the wrapping presents lesson. Using paper to the most efficient level and again—less is more with the sellotape.

Music…Da, do you realise what you gave us in music? The love of singing a song. The delight in singing together. You loved nothing more than a room full of people who just wanted to hear each other sing, so we would sing and clap along. We still have it. The love of being a family. You did that. You gave us that.

I hope you know what you left us. I hope you loved how we said goodbye to you. We did it in the best way we knew how. With singing and laughing and crying and just being together.

We will always miss you.

From the shakin’s of the bag as you called me,

The baby, Annmarie xx

G is for Gang of Four


Based on childhood memories, this piece of flash fiction is inspired by my mother and her sisters. It’s based on a writing group prompt, Gang for Four

Gang of Four

They sat around the table every week, with strong opinions, loud voices, strict rules, and plenty of money. Purses bursted with coins. But no brown money. There would be no coppers in this game. On the table was a deck of cards and a bottle of brandy. In the fridge were salad sandwiches, and some fizzy orange for Aunty Teetotal.

They had grown up together in the same house. Shared a bed, clothes, pencils.  Then work and family life stretched their bond, sometimes almost to breaking point. It was never severed though; the tie of sisters rarely is. They were all married when they stared to meet on a Saturday night. Kids old enough to fend for themselves, husbands happy to watch the football or go to the pub. Over the years they became widows in turn and their connection deepened, returning to its childhood level.

Saturday nights were for playing The Queen, Trumps and On the Bus. The games were not to be taken lightly, though they laughed throughout.  They broke for sandwiches half-way through the evening, and it was time to sort the money out.

“I owe you a fiver.”

“Well I owe you seven, so you give that to her and I’ll only owe two.”

“But don’t you owe me ten?”

“I did, but then I paid for the raffle tickets, so you owe me six. Actually, you all owe me six.”

“I paid you for mine, didn’t I? I got you the round mince.”

“Right so, you give that fiver back and I’ll give you…”

The fiver would be passed around the room, more often than not, ending up back in the purse if came out of. When all was totted up, often only a pound or two was ever actually owed, but it had to be put right.

Watching and listening from the stairs, or if we were quiet, on a small stool near the table, we learned fairness, responsibility, the importance of fun and family, and the bond that four sisters can have throughout  a lifetime.

This gang of four did not change the world. But they made our world and we are grateful for it.

F is for Flowers


I’m a pretty inconstant gardener, but over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed having a flower bed and some pots in our back garden, which was just an area of tarmac when we moved in.

My mother loved her garden. Our house might be upside down and she’d be outside, pulling dead leaves off the rose bush or inspecting the white alyssum. We had a beautiful blossom tree, and in the house, there was always a vase of daffodils when they were in season. She loved daffodils. So I had to start with planting some of those. Mine aren’t out like the ones in the picture here. These ones are in the other flower bed in the church grounds. They get more sun. But mine are getting there. 🙂 Daffodils always remind me of my mam. She loved spring time.

I confess I didn’t do enough research before writing this post. When I say research, I mean looking at the tag to remind myself what flowers my friend Karenne planted.

Yes, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that this work has not been done by me. My friend Karenne helped me pick the plants, then when we got them home she planted them. Oh, did you spot the sheep?

So this is Brian and Cully – my sheep. They are named after the two guys who maintain the church site. Cully gave us the large rocks to make the flower beds. The bright green plant above them in the bed is a bunch of Welsh poppies. I didn’t plant them there. Last year they were on the other side of the garden. They are great at migrating and are a beautiful yellow when they bloom.

I love my little garden and the flowers give me more joy than I ever thought they would. I’m not as engrossed in my garden as my mother was, but I can see why she loved spending time with her flowers 🙂 Tomorrow, I’m going to share some flash fiction that was inspired by her x

E is for Extemporise (or Excogitate)


As I mentioned in my first post of this year’s April AtoZ Blogging Challenge I haven’t got a theme this year and I have not prescheduled, or pre-thought about any of my posts. Each day I’m just going to write something different.

I’ve just asked my husband to give me a few words beginning with ‘E.’ He gave me – Evergreen, Event, and Enter. So I’m going to free-write for a few minutes and the only rule, is that I have to get each of those words in. It’ll be nonsense and rubbish, but the piece will be raw material for something to be worked on later. Freewriting is not usually something to be shared, but here we go anyway…

The queue was moving too slowly. Cath was freezing, dressed for the better weather that had been promised. If that wasn’t bad enough, the event organiser made her wear a filthy hi-vis jacket with a sign sellotaped on the back of it, reading ‘STAFF,’ covering the fact that the jacket was for a First Aider. It had sounded like a great deal, do a couple of hours work at the entrance gate and get into the festival for free. She’d been there four hours already and still people were arriving. Two artists she loved had already played, her absolute favourite band, Enter At Your Peril, would be on the main stage soon, and she was bursting for the loo. Then inspiration struck.

“Bob,” she shouted across the turnstiles to her fellow ticketmaster. “Can you radio base to say I need someone to take over please?” She then mouthed, “I need to go.”

“Go where?” he shouted back.

“I need to GO.”

“Awh right yeah, hang on.” Bob got on the radio and Cath continued to stamp tickets ignoring shouts of “can she have a pee, please Bob?”

Eventually Cath was rescued. She ran past the Portaloos and straight to the main stage. She got there just as it was being announced that Enter At Your Peril were not coming on until later. There was some booing and some shouting as a terrified looking kid with an acoustic guitar came on stage. Once he got going, the crowd sang along with his cover of an Oasis classic. Cath was singing along when she felt someone pull her arm out of the crowd. “We’ve got a fainter.” her captor shouted. “We need someone back stage.” Cath was pulled through the crowd and past security by the side of the stage, through the curtain to the back stage area where she saw a crowd standing around some someone lying on the ground.

“What do want me to do?” said Cath.

“I don’t know,” he said. “You’re the first aider.”

The ‘STAFF’ sign was being trampled on by Oasis fans.

“You’ve got to help him, love. We need to get Evergreen on that stage.”

Cath recognised the members of Enter at Your Peril standing around the lead singer, who was lying on the ground.

“What happened?” Cath asked, kneeling on the floor beside him. “Did he bang his head? Drink too much? Take something he shouldn’t?”

“Worse! A huge spider fell on his head just before we were due to go on.”

“And it bit him?!

“Nah, he’s afraid of them. He fainted.”

Evergreen groaned and opened his eyes. “Where is it? Is it still on me?” He jumped up, shaking his head and jumping up and down.

Cath stamped her foot. “There! He’s dead,” she lied. “Squished under my boot.”

Evergreen turned to her. He held her face for a moment. “You are my hero,” he kissed her and the band ran on to the stage.

“Yeah,” she said, as the crowds roared. “And you used to be mine.”

D is for Depression


Today’s post is a kind of poem about my experience of depression. Not everyone’s experience is the same. So I’m just going to share a little of mine. I’m not a poet but I find writing the truth can be hard. It’ll be easier to do it in a more creative way.

Depression is a funny thing,
It does not make me laugh
It used to make me cry, it used to stab me in the heart
until the pain would make me angry, hungry,
sending me for food,
to make me feel the way I felt
when I was small, and safe, and good

But now it doesn’t do that. This time I’m more stressed out
In case somebody asks me to do, or say, or shout
and tell them, “everything is fine, I’ll take care of that.”
Cos it’s what I do, I sort things out.
Except for age-old fat
that I am trying trying to disrobe from
but I cannot concentrate
on every single thing that’s asked of me.

No one asked me? Oh wait

It was me who piled the stuff on?
It was me who got it wrong?
expectations, responsibilities
more words, more songs
I thought I had to do it all and carry all the weight
while trying to lose it without losing it
while not losing the faith

Does it look like I am losing
any sense of sense right now?
Well that is it, you’ve now seen how it works, it makes me feel that
now, I must explain and say I’m sorry, that I don’t know where, why, how

Stop!

See how it steals my peace?

So, I’ll stop and ask you just to wait, and let me find a way
back to thinking, breathing, eating, normally (is the word normal okay?)
You see, depression is a funny thing
It does not make me laugh
but the joke’s on me and will be while I travel on this path
to God knows where and God knows when
but that is good enough for me
cos though I live with my depression, my God, He lives in me

C is for Cypher


I thought I would wait until today to do ‘C’ as it’s Easter Sunday, and I love today’s word, which is ‘cypher’ or ‘cipher’. It means the same, which ever way you spell it.

Being a lover of spy films and programs, I see cyphers used at lot. Whole plotlines are sometimes built around a secret code that must be ‘de-ciphered’ to understand what is being said or what is going to happen. Dictionary.com defines cypher as, “a secret or disguised way of writing; a code.” I remember hearing someone say they believed the Bible was a cryptogram and if the right cypher could be found, then the origins of existence and the purpose and future of the universe would be solved.

After almost 27 years of being a Christian, a BTh and a PGDip in Applied Theology, I am still no expert. However I don’t believe the Bible’s message to be hidden in any code. The origins of the universe are right there in the first few pages. There are sections of the Bible I still don’t understand and some Biblical history is hard to accept, and don’t get me started on the many opinions on the Book of Revelation. But a lot of what God is trying to say to us through the Bible is clear. For eg. love God, love your neighbour, follow Jesus, you are loved – to mention just a few basic messages.

The other reason I left Cypher for today is that it’s other meaning is ‘zero’, nought, nothing, or empty. Just like the grave that Jesus was put into when he died. He is Risen. HALLELUJAH! 😀

See you tomorrow… A x

B is for Blood


Today is Good Friday. There are so many things about the Crucifixion that blow my mind. But I’ve always been fascinated by the concept that blood of Jesus cleanses us. 1 John 1:7 says, “…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Have you ever bled on your clothing? A cut on your hand which stains you sleeve or a sudden nosebleed that stains your shirt? Blood can be a nightmare to get out of fabric.

Yet the blood of Jesus, instead of leaving stains, does a purifying work. Not on fabric, but on our very souls. Jesus was innocent but died to save sinners from having to shed their own blood. Jesus’ blood is the only blood that removes stains instead of causing them. It’s amazing. And I am so grateful to God that I get to benefit from it.

HALLELUJAH!

The old hymn goes…

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

See you tomorrow for C… A x

A is for Ash


It’s been a while since I gave the April AtoZ Blogging Challenge a go. The last couple of times I took part, I didn’t finish it. I’m hoping to use the challenge to commit to writing every day for the month of April. My daily writing habit has not just gone by the wayside, it has fallen off a cliff!

This year I don’t have a theme. so I’ll be rambling about whatever is on my heart and mind each day. A bit of free writing. I’ll add some flash fiction as I go, as I’ve written quite a few pieces during lockdown – thanks to my local writing group, Afon Llwyd Writers’ Zoom meetings with some great prompts. I’ll share about a project I am praying about as lockdown and depression both are starting to ease. There’ll be some spiritual ponderings too. Today, however, I’ll start by sharing a little about my current fiction project. My second novel – working title is ‘Ash’

I wrote the first draft of ‘Ash’ during NaNoWriMo 2020. It is inspired by the story of Silas Marner (SM). I adored the story when we read it in school.

I love that Marner saved Eppie, and she saved him. He was betrayed by his best friend, lost the love of his life, was shunned by his faith community and robbed of his treasure; yet he ended up with more than he could ever have wanted. He was blessed to come to understand what truly matters in life. You know me – I’m a sucker for a happy ending. 🙂

I wanted to write something where an abandoned child is rescued, but in my story it is the child who has a percieved strangeness about them (as opposed to the adult character – Marner suffered with what reads as a form of epilepsy or catalepsy). Ash’s problem is, he is a genius. He has an eidetic/photographic memory. He can read anything and understand it. He does not have to be taught or shown anything twice. Set in a similar time to SM, Ash’s intelligence is seen as of the devil and as the community get to know him and his adoptive family, they are more cynical. There is one scene where some of the women in the village discuss how unholy it is for a child to be able to recite a Psalm! There are characters who are afraid of Ash for different reasons and they use the fears of the locals to try to get rid of him. Especially as the local landowner has taken an interest in the boy and his family.

I’m hoping to self-publish Ash before the end of the year. In the meantime, if you’re interested in checking out my other fiction, you can find out about it on my writer website www.annmariemiles.co.uk

See you tomorrow… A x