[36] Writing tools

It has been a few days since the last post. I am concentrating my efforts on completing and editing the book. I have also been away on a writing break, it didn’t initially start with much writing, as the family joined me. I was pleased with this, apart from my son’s insistence he wanted to go home, that was on the way to the cottage.  Additionally, he is nearly sixteen and not six. The cottage is very rural, several miles from civilisation but it is such as great place.  I was looking forward to it from the point the owner sent through a dossier of things about the cottage. It was thirty pages long, it had detailed instructions, step by step guide to reach my home for the next three nights. It looked to be deep across the moors. The instructions had dry day walks and wet day walks. The nearest pub is an hour and a half away on foot. It is everything you would expect for a rural cottage in the lakes. A massive open fire, a basket of chopped logs, coal, brilliant sunrises and sunsets over big hill and silence. I sit here writing this with just the sound of a ticking clock. The place doesn’t even have a television, the Wifi is slow. I love it.

The blog post is called writing tools, and there is a reason to this. I have purchased the full subscription to Grammarly. I have mentioned this device before, but I decided as it aids editing it would be worth the investment in the premium version. This came about as I thought as it was an online based tool, I would try and edit my Word document online, through Office365. I, however, came across an issue, it doesn’t work with Office online, however, it had a Word plugin. I heartily recommend it.  It was showing things missed that Word’s grammar checker wasn’t picking up. It also suggested quite a few premium items it had noticed. The number of them, shall we say I will keep to myself.  There were additional discounts that could be found as well.

I have just completed a section of my book, I needed some practical guidance with. Let me explain, it involved ( This might be a minor spoiler for unfriended, but doesn’t give too much away) the board game Scrabble.  A certain scenario occurs that requires the use of Scrabble as a means of communication. The cottage had a scrabble board.  I have spent the last hour recreating this scene and spelling out numbers with letters, SEVEN, FOUR etc.  I then thought I would see how it read and came across this website which allows you to paste text in and it can be read out by several different voices.  You can tailor the speed, change the auditor, probably my favourite is the one I think sounds like Graeme Garden from the Goodies. He’s done lots of things but will never lose that tag.  It’s still mechanical in part, but it also gives me another tool in the toolbelt.

I have just listened to this blog through it and will make changes, I did smile when Graeme said Office three hundred and sixty-five.

[34] Talking Italian

I thought I would update yesterday’s post into a longer one, as that was created while out after a few drinks, minutes before midnight.  So technically I have managed to continue the blog posts. That was all I achieved yesterday with regards to the continuation of my habit streaks, braining training and meditation are now firmly back at day 1.

Someone I know is considering doing nanowrimo, the national novel writing month which starts in November, which I have mentioned previously. I must admit when it was mentioned, I was envious as I have another idea for a book and would quite like to see where it goes. I have however one small matter of an unfinished one to deal with. I have decided I can’t start any new writing projects until I complete the existing one. So that means if I want to do it, I have just over two weeks to complete it. I have set out what I wanted to achieve with the blog, but it has taken time away from when I could have been completing “Unfriended” so I might start to reduce the frequency of the posts. The book had to be the number one priority.

I did say the other day I would share some of the “croftisms” that I had recently been reminded off. This particular one I think I must have blanked out on purpose.

Several years ago, I tried to start learning Italian, another one of my many projects. This involved a weekly night school course locally and some lunchtimes at work with a girl I worked with, who knew Italian. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good. I am not sure the Northern accent is made to speak fluent Italian. She was a great help however with my homework. It’s always good to have someone to ask questions and learn from.  Lunchtimes could be fun sat by the canal in Manchester trying to pick up some Italian. On one of these occasions, I was being taught some shall we say interesting phases that you wouldn’t learn in class. “Che cazzo fai?”  “porca puttana”  “stronso” and others similar. The first translates to “What the fuck are you doing”. I wrote them down as I tended to do with most of the words I was learning.  I completed my homework with assistance and handed it in at the class that evening. The teacher who was a middle-aged, dark-haired Italian woman pulled me to one side the following week and said “Martin, your homework is very good as usual” she then hesitated “But these words on the back” turning over the sheet “Are not very good, Italian’s do not like these phrases” Showing me the rude Italian works I had inadvertently written on the back of my homework.  I embarrassingly was very apologetic and tried to rationalise why I was writing rude works in the first place. She just smiled at me.

I thought after that incident that I wouldn’t make that mistake again and I didn’t. This time it was something else.

I managed to make it to the end of the course and the last night was an oral test. Everyone was going to speak for about five minutes in Italian, she would ask questions and there would be conversations. This was, fortunately, to be done in another room so no one had to listen to it. I’d had some issues with the trains back from Manchester and was running very late. It was a matter of quickly running into the house, getting out of my work clothes and shoes and getting dressed for the class. I grabbed my trainers from the cupboard in the hallway. This cupboard is one of those under the stairs dumping grounds that’s always a nightmare to find things. There is no light and I was relieved to be able to find my trainers as quickly as I had. I was at that point about 15 minutes late.  I jumped into the car and set off. It’s about 10 minutes to the class with traffic lights. I was just around the corner when I noticed something didn’t feel right with the clutch peddle.  Then I noticed on my left foot was a grey Karrimor style walking boot and on my right an Adidas blue suede trainer. How the hell had I managed to do that without noticing? I looked at the time and realised that it just wasn’t feasible to go back home. If it wasn’t the last week I would have skipped it entirely. I had no choice but to continue. Maybe no one would notice. I parked up and started walking, they were entirely different heights. I entered red-faced before I had even started “Buonasera Martin” The teacher said as I entered. I slunk down at the table I sat at with several other people. Thinking I could get away with it I then realised that everyone would notice when we went for our break. There was nothing I could do and then preceded to try and explain why I had two completely different shoes on a bewildered table full of people.



[31] The little things

It’s amazing how the little things impact us. I got up this morning not wanting to get out of bed, the alarm had gone just after 6AM to allow me to get the 6.55AM train. I used to never use an alarm clock, when did that change I wonder? I press snooze and 10 minutes later I am still there. I mustn’t have pressed it properly. I force myself to get up and get showered.  I wander into the kitchen to try and a make a brew. My son is asleep on the Kitchen floor. This probably needs an explanation, he’s on a mattress. His room is being painted, it was his decision to sleep here, but only after he decided to move his computer to the kitchen table.  I managed to make a brew without waking him.

Kitchen PC

He’s asleep in the space behind the PC on a mattress.

I was conscious of the time, as I would have to leave soon. I hadn’t done my stretches.I left not long later, I had done the minimal of stretching. I had my headphones in my pocket, should I carry on with my podcast, should I read my audiobook? Once at the train should I write, it’s always challenging on the very cramped seats with my Microsoft surface (other laptops are available) or should I read.  I had put the book I am currently reading Fool Moon in my bag this morning. As I walked its very windy, winter is coming, how can you ever say that statement and not think of anything other than a game of thrones I ponder. It’s eerie, my walk takes me down a dimly lit passage with a few street lamps, it feels very Harry Potter. I think I should try and get all the popular culture references in, maybe today’s blog will reach more people because of it.  I like the way the street lamps illuminate the surrounding trees and bushes, making the dark patches even more inky black. I wonder, would I walk down this way if the light were out. I once thought I saw a shadowy figure behind one of the trees across the street, I could have sworn someone was there but when I checked there was no one. It always makes me ponder what I did see that day.

Weirdly the passage gives me a smile and brightens my day. I enjoyed the walk this morning, albeit short as it was it lifted my spirits.

I await the train, I haven’t got my headphone out or made any decisions. The train pulls in, it’s not the usual one. It has bright new carriages, new seats and saving the best to last seating with tables. Oh my, my heart skips, my decision is made for me. I smile.  I will write.

I silently hope this is to be regular train as I sit here finishing today’s blog and moving onto editing my book.

[29] The room where time stops

I’ve always wanted a room in which time doesn’t move. It just freezes the very moment you enter to the moment you leave. I could take anything to this room even a laptop with the internet. Obviously, this doesn’t exist but it would be amazing and oh things you could do. You could learn everything you ever dreamed of. I recall this as I briefly crammed in some stretching this morning and looked around the living room. I see lots of unfinished things, stuff that shouts to me “Oi Martin what about me, when you going to sort me out. There’s a Xbox voucher for 3 months access, that’s been sat there for months, there’s a mindful gift I got for my birthday off my beautiful daughter in July than needs a daily commitment which I’ve given about three continuous days
There’s a novel writing book, the drawing pins box from yesterday, a lean in 15 book, which has never had a recipe made from it. The Guardian paper that I bought yesterday as part of the 99 tasks and for the free virtual reality headset, the baskets in the living room are another thing entirely. They are crammed with hidden things out of sight but I know they are watching. Ok if I only had my special room that I could drag all these things into them and come out seconds later with every open loop closed and that’s just the living room. Every room I enter the voices call to me. “Pick me Martin pick me” but all the voices are the same level there isn’t one that shouts with authority ” I am the one to do next, you know that” occasionally the voices annoy I find a window to do some ‘organisation’. I choose at random what gets my attention, I choose over whelming tasks I open the basket and piles things out. There is no time room to take them to. They get spread out across the floor, these items of curiosity. I get distracted. I make vague inroads and time is sucked from me. The place is a mess. I collate all my piles of wonders together, they go back in the basket the lids shuts better than it before ever so slightly. That’s a success right?, I con myself .
Even now as I write this on the train, I’d decided I wouldn’t write the book this morning but I would read a novel. I don’t read enough, I berate myself , but I am now doing something else instead.

I’m silently screaming in my head. I wonder if I didn’t take on a single new thing how long it would take to put all the curiosities and things I started, to bed. Life doesn’t work like that does it. Can you press the pause button and crack on with other things? and if you can which one do you do when there is so many. As I metophocially drag the list of unfinished things to the room where time stops.

[27] The harshness of winter colds

Yesterday’s post was not so much about writing my book but conveying a true story of something that happened to me. I don’t think this is a bad thing, as it improves my storytelling skills and hopefully amuses. I recall these idiot moments fondly and they make me smile as I recall them. I look forward to coming back to these posts in the future and rereading. A lot of things in my book ‘unfriended’ were influenced by experiences, that said I must add that I’ve never joined the EDL, seen racist toilets or come out as gay just for a day, it’s the other things, honest.

I was going to recall the ‘2nd toilet’ story but then I remembered ‘the cough sweet’ incident as I’m currently sat on a train so I thought I would share that one first.

It was a cold winter morning, I was under the weather and commuting to Manchester where I worked. My throat was killing me, it was swollen and swallowing was difficult. It felt horrible. I felt rotten. I looked in the cupboard and noticed a box of throat lozenges. I smiled and popped them in my pocket. They made a rattling sound and I assumed they had all been broken up. I was sure they would still help as I felt I’d swallowed razor blades as my throat was so sore. I walked to the train. It was cold as I got on the train and I tried to keep warm as best I could. I pulled my coat tighter about me. I rubbed my sore throat and then remembered the throat lozenges and smiled.

I grabbed them out of my pocket and flipped open the little cardboard box lid and in one fluid motion dropped the lozenges straight onto my tongue. The instant they were in my mouth I realised something didn’t feel quite right. The box was still open in my hand. I looked down. I was staring at a box of drawing pins. I, fortunately, didn’t start to chew as I’d realised immediately. I spat them out into my hand. I cupped my hand and pushed them back into the box. I wonder to this day if anyone had looked up to see a man spitting out drawing pins on the train and for them to wonder if he had learning difficulties or he was just a bellend.

I still have the box of drawing pins in my office and to this day every time I see them it brings a smile to my face. The picture above is the actual box.

[18] Broken

I’ve gone and broken it. The first streak is over. I should try and take a positive spin as I’ve been doing remarkably well. I’m notoriously bad at enforcing habits. Yesterday I woke later than normal and didn’t do my morning routine of stretching.I have a bad back and had a few weeks ago had an injection for some pain I’ve been having, it had improved it. It still isn’t brilliant but I was able to achieve more and hopefully strengthen the muscle. Umm, that sounds rude, anyway I digress. I didn’t stretch in the morning and as it wasn’t my routine of an evening so completely bypassed me. It was only today I realised. I don’t it seems have evening routines, don’t get me wrong I remember the blog but that’s now more or less ingrained. If it’s any consolation I did extra this morning. Life’s like that you have blips you carry on.

The book is still being edited, corrections made but I’m feeling more and more comfortable with it. It now just needs time. I want my daughter to draft a cover as she can draw but getting her to read the book it is the biggest challenge I’ve listed some of the parts in the book a list and see what she can come up with. Without giving any major plot lines away.

  • The EDL
  • Using Scrabble to communicate
  • Orkney’s
  • Two-night stand
  • American special forces
  • Racist toilets
  • Brendan Rodgers, not the football manager
  • Pink helmet cam

(Words 250)

Additional Authors note – that isn’t me in the photo btw.

[15] Ask your self what do you see?

Ask yourself a question. Look around you what can you see? What’s happening where you are at this exact point in time? Feel free to post in the comments what it is. I’m curious. I’m sat at work writing this as someone taken control of my PC, on purpose. So, it seemed like a good idea to write today’s blog hence the question. The window blinds a few feet in front of me are all at different heights in different windows some offering a grim outlook of the streets of Manchester. There’s an old building with pillars which on looking I note an absence of birds. There’s a building with scaffolding looking forlorn just beyond the girl with purple hair. My focus wanders more to the interior of the building, on the desk next to mine is one of the little wooden toys. What are they called? It’s a woodpecker on a pole that pecks away when sliding down the pole. I’ve never seen it move. I now wonder if anyone would say anything if I learnt over and made it peck. I decided I will. I pull to the top. I have been cheated, the little wooden woodpecker sits at the top of the pole. It’s not moving. Its eye looks like it’s looking at me. If it could speak what would it say? ‘Who put me up here, the bastard?’ Do woodpecker swear? does anyone know? Will the girl who sits at the desk even notice, I  wonder?

(Words 250)



[13] Strangers on a train

Today’s blog comes from the woods. I’ve dropped off my daughter of at Go Ape, Rivington and decided to test out how my back injections hold up. While she and her friend jumped from trees and death slid, I walked around the reservoir. I had never walked around this particular one. A nice afternoon stroll but the back is starting to stiffen already, but it was worth it.  I said yesterday I’d post my story and break the rule of two five zero, however, I have decided to keep that to another day as I’d like to share with you my evening last night. I do believe, I will one day be a writer as In people will read me in print and not just online. The various things that I see and do, I see from different perspectives with my writing head on but this particular thing I will get to shortly. Yesterday I went to watch Jimmy Carr in Blackburn, travelling through Preston when who should be travelling on the same train as me and also going to the gig. This man.


The evening was excellent, if you haven’t seen him I definitely recommend.  Back to the bit, I mentioned before, about trying to hone one’s skills and using your writer’s mind. Something surreal happened after the gig that I don’t know if I can do justice describing it.If it wasn’t Blackburn it would probably not be believable. Can I describe it in 250 words? tomorrow I will try.

(words 250)

[9] Smoke rings in Autumn

The turn of the seasons is upon us, I sit at the train station blowing smoke rings writing this. I like the change of seasons, I love Autumn, the cold frosty mornings, the bite in the air the falling of leaves from the trees. The heavy rush towards the festive period. I don’t, however, enjoy the cold windy delayed train, the wet soggy mornings. Fortunately, today isn’t one of the wet ones, even when I eventually arrive in Manchester it’s not raining for a change.  I didn’t continue writing this blog once the train arrived, I continued editing the book. It’s going to take some time and more than one draft to remove all the small issues, correct the way things flow. One thing I am proud of is I know what needs to go into the story and often find my self-trying to add something I then go on to mention a few sentences onwards. It’s all a learning process.  I return to this some 13 hours later to finish the 250 works I started.  It’s not the end of the day either, there are still several hours to achieve things, however, tonight all I want to achieve is to sit and watch the football.   For my sins, I am a Liverpool fan, a frustrated one as are the many. What picture could someone build of me with only 250 words written each day I wonder. I have so many stories, snippets anecdotes to share which the minimum words allowed makes challenging.

(Words 250)

[7]Weird Word Counts

I mentioned my approach to writing yesterday. I am finding that exactly 250 words can be challenging.  I start writing on an app (writer) on my phone and email it myself.  The app had a word count function. Then I complete it in Microsoft Word, which also has a word count function as does the WordPress site. What I am noticing, however, they are giving different word counts, which has made editing quite interesting, I suspect the 250 count of previous days might not all be correct. I also use a Chrome extension called Grammarly which is an online grammar checker.  The intention of 250 is there so I will not worry too much about it.  With the book, I have had the odd occasion where a piece I have written had not saved, which was quite annoying as it was trying to save to one-drive without a connection while commuting on the train to work, so each time I write I incremented the version numbers Brewsters 5000 V56 and save locally. I also maintain a word count at the end of the book, the date and the number of words written.  Additionally, I have added the word count for each chapter, so I know the small/large chapters, where I need to add more content,  split chapters up.  Each chapter is given a relevant title and as it’s a header I have a map of the story. I haven’t decided if these chapters titles will make it to the final version of the book.

(Words 250)