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For the Love of Books - Writer's 'Blog

02/11/2018: BIKER BLOGS: It's not easy being green!

Remember when Kermit said that? I think I understand him now.

Menopause – or peri-menopause (the bit I’m in) creates a very colourful time in a woman’s life. Now, before all the guys click onto a different page, this affects you too. After all, why should we be the only one to suffer with it. Let’s share that suffering.

Kermit was green. I relate because my eyes are green. My hair is dyed red, the air is often blue when a mood hits me and within seconds from being sweary and shouty, my face matches my hair. Then my eyes see red.

Like I said, it’s a colourful time.

On the back of a motorcycle though, life feels different.

Because hubby and I (perhaps purposely?) do not have Bluetooth communications inside our helmets, and because he is a lot taller than me, I tend to see and hear very little while we ride out. This may sound restrictive, but it does provide a major positive: thinking time.

I run my own small business as a writer, ghost writer, business blog writer, workshop host, etc and I also present a weekly radio show on writing. On the days of the week I don’t do those things, I study. I’m now in my penultimate year of an Open University degree which is, you guessed it, writing related. Because of the often-intense nature of juggling my schedule, having time to think is paramount.

Between excellent riding skills, looking sexy in biker gear and generally being rather patient with his potentially volatile wife, hubby seems to enjoy the challenging mix of negotiating the traffic while having an anxious (will even jump at my own shadow!) pillion rider. We’ve had this bike for 3 years now and have had some amazing adventures on it.

We often take a long day trip out around Essex, an occasional weekend away (Lincolnshire, Wales etc) and we even battled the extreme sunshine earlier this year as we rode through the Cotswolds for a week. The term boil-in-the-bag was a reality for us during those five days. You can imagine what a delight I became for hubby while I endured menopausal hot flushes in 40-degree heat wearing a biker jacket and helmet! I probably lost a few pounds but then regained them during dinner each evening.

Aside from the thinking time you get on the back of a bike, you get to see life. Due to the lack of vision – I see both sides as we are on top of them rather than as they approach – when we slow down for traffic, I get to notice wild flowers, partially-hidden ancient stone walls, the reluctant rodent and occasional owls and other shy birds.

As a fan of architecture, I often get the chance within our county of Essex to take in the stunning lines and curves of gothic, classical, Victorian, medieval and even brand-spanking modern buildings.

So, between my hormones, thinking time, our weather and the countryside, pillion-riding is exciting and often peaceful in great measure.

That said, in unexpected torrential rain, the adventures are quite different again.

But that’s a story for another time.

25/10/2018: Time Sensitive - Autumn Creative Writing Course

Each Tuesday from November 6th to December 11th 2018, I will be hosting an in-depth creative writing course at the Albert Edward Community Hall in Clacton, Essex.

During the stages of the course, aspects from the germ of an idea through to final publication will be covered in an informal and relaxed, flexible atmosphere.

If you aspire to becoming a creative writer, or are already writing, and want some tips on any aspect, then join us for a fresh look at the creative writing process.

Cost of the course is just £120 per person, for 18 hours of tips, exercises, one to one assistance and actual writing.

Book your place now by emailing and showing your interest.

01/10/2018: Health - work balance

More often than not, we all try our hardest to do what we do to the best of our abilities.

Sometimes, it doesn't work like that.

I want to mention the M word. I don't want to scare away any gents to my blog though so won't use the whole M word. Let's call it 'm-pause'.

Yeah - we all know what I'm talking about now.

M-pause or peri - m - pause (the bit I'm going through), is tough. Some women get it bad, some hardly notice it at all.

The problem arises when brain fog sets in. Brain fog, zombie-esque days, joint ache, low motivation, mixed into your work day and you'll find yourself having a very tricky time.

My memory isn't fab and I was never blessed with patience so when someone mentions a mistake I've made - an obvious one like a typo or the wrong time for an event - I have a tough time telling myself that I shouldn't sweat the small stuff. The thing is, ANY mistake, any error and anything not utterly right is not small stuff, certainly not when you are a writer by trade so the tiniest error is emphasised by the masses. But before the masses spot it (if you are lucky), you spot it and then continue to beat yourself up about it.

So, I put to you people of Interweb-land, is it worth punishing yourself for a small error or should you just remind yourself you are human?

24/09/2018: Trying to keep up… with everyone!

Do you ever have that feeling that if you don't keep up with everyone you will be left behind? I find this a lot in business. I'm absolutely shattered today due to a busy weekend meeting up with relatives both days and then going to the cinema last thing on Sunday night.

We didn't really stop the whole weekend. I am beyond exhausted. I feel really dizzy and I've got brain fog and unable to focus much but still I've got a lot to do.

I'm doing this blog and vlog just to find out from other small businesses how they deal with it. Just be kind to yourself. Yes the calendar doesn't match up with how you feel inside, yes, you need to earn money to pay bills but sometimes…sometimes it's just not possible.

All morning I've been beating myself up in here (points to head) because I feel guilty because I've not been able to keep up. Now rather than do a really poor job of trying to keep up I feel I just cannot.

I've got a radio show to present this evening which I'm hoping in my heart of hearts that I don't have to do but I might have to anyway. It is voluntary but sometimes you still have to do these things. Somewhere in amongst the guilt in my mind I'm still privileged to be able to do it.

Mental health is vital to your physical health and everything else. (sigh)

Is it the answer though - to just be kind to yourself? Or should I just pull up my big girl pants and get on with it?

I don't know what the answer is….you tell me.

30/06/2018: Elegant Etiquette in The Nineteenth Century Mallory James Published by Pen and Sword

An amusing yet informative take on good manners and behaviour in years gone by.
The cover alone evidences the off-beat tone used in the content which includes fashion, politics and acceptable social behaviours of both genders.
Incorporating behaviours between social classes, it looks at marital and class status too. This charming book offers a selection of black and white photography showing the intricacies of 19c fashion.
An amusing read, of potential value to a historical writer needing to research characteristics of people from this era.

25/06/2018: Myths that Shaped our History Simon Webb Published by Pen and Sword

An interesting book showing how propaganda and handed-down, unquestioned stories have created a belief system.

The dark green cover drew me to this book and the title got my curious mind wanting more.

Starting with the Magna Carta and journeying to the Battle of Britain, this timeline of unchallenged stories have provided the country with a way to raise the morale of soldiers at war and civilians with a way of life. Webb suggests that Great Britain needed to believe historical events happened in a specific way in order to show our strength and prevent threats.

The content provides several photographs which serve to evidence the propaganda with ‘another example of …propaganda being taken at face value without anyone bothering to look at the facts’.

An interesting, if somewhat cynical read that makes you think.

21/06/2018: How To Overcome Eating Disorders Breaking Free for a Better Life Louise V Taylor Published by Pen and Sword

Having experienced my own battles with eating disorders, I felt this book would answer a lot of my questions.

It did.

The cover photo is calming and serene but I didn’t feel it was right for this book. The layout is a little crowded too; wider margins may have been a better choice.

Those things aside, the content is well written and well researched covering many of the feelings suffered go through including feeling pressured, judged and shame.

Body image is not about vanity, it is about control and Taylor explains this fully confessing to her own experiences. She talks about how these disorders are fundamentally psychological incorporating how mental health issues can occur in later life.

She highlights statements like: ‘underlying emotional traumas’, ‘ambitious individuals who believe personal achievements are important’ and ‘being people pleasers’ which makes this book speak directly to the reader and connects with the sufferer.

The wavy oversized chapter headings did not seem to sit easily with the seriousness of the content or calm cover. However, Taylor makes up for that by incorporating case studies and touches on Freud and Jung while describing varying types of therapies available.

I was impressed Taylor focussed the disorder on sufferers of all ages and not just the young.

There is also a page devoted to self-help and further reading in addition to several helpful books sign-posted within the content.

All in all, a really insightful book. Thoroughly recommended for sufferers or those simply curious about eating disorders.

20/06/2018: Elegant Etiquette in The Nineteenth Century Mallory James Published by Pen and Sword

An amusing yet informative take on good manners and behaviour in years gone by.

The cover alone evidences the off-beat tone used in the content which includes fashion, politics and acceptable social behaviours of both genders.

Incorporating behaviours between social classes, it looks at marital and class status too. This charming book offers a selection of black and white photography showing the intricacies of 19c fashion.

An amusing read, of potential value to a historical writer needing to research characteristics of people from this era.

18/06/2018: Radio News

Writer's Block is going through some changes.

It celebrated its 6th birthday this year after having interviewed some 350 guests and giving a voice to new and existing writers all over the area - and world in some cases.

While Saint FM changes its name and frequency and goes off air until the new year, I have taken up home in the studios at Colne Radio (106.6fm) who I have been working with for two years now.

'Sarah Banham speaks to...' is the name of the show but essentially is still Writer's Block. I will be broadcasting live every Monday night from 2nd July 2018 6-7pm from Wivenhoe.

If you are local to Wivenhoe in North Essex (UK) and are willing to get to the studios to discuss your love of writing/your book/your writing group/your book group, indeed anything creative writing related, get in touch with the show's Facebook page: "Writer's Block Local Radio Show" or my twitter feed @sjbwrites

19/02/2018: Book Review - Mary Queen of Scots' Downfall

Mary Queen of Scots’ Downfall
The Life and Murder of
Henry, Lord Darnley

By Robert Stedall
Published by Pen and Sword

This is a historical biography in hardback with a dust cover.

The contents include coloured pictures, detailed family trees and a meaningful acknowledgement to the publisher.

I had a personal reason for wanting to review this book. My surname was Stuart and I wanted to know how the spelling alters at times to Stewart. The book did not disappoint as now I know.

This is a very thick book filled with presumably years of research on a complex subject of power and status within royalty. It talks of aggressive tactics, bullying and taking children hostage to ensure the parents were loyal. These were not friendly people and the book certainly gives a vision of how appalling some of the personalities behaved.

With incredibly detailed genealogy and research undertaken by Stedall, to the point of becoming obsessive over evidence, it appears no detail, however trivial or intricate, has been ignored in the events surrounding the death of Lord Darnley.

For anyone even slightly interested in Royal history and all its celebrations and cover-ups, this book will be an added delight upon your bookshelf. A remarkable read and encased inside a binding well worth the asking price of £25.

SJ Banham

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