the wednesday wind-down: day 6 of tent life

No Fixed Abode

It’s the sixth day and, so far, nothing terrible has happened (touch wood). The weather has been glorious – almost to the point of being suspiciously glorious – and Beth and I have managed to navigate this country-living thing pretty smoothly. We’ve figured out what time we need to leave in the morning to both get to work on time (the crack of dawn, by the way), how much time we have in the evenings to cook, shower and wash up before the sun goes down… Our days revolve around how much light there is, and it’s a surprisingly peaceful existence. If I’m honest, I expected our new lifestyle to be one of those things that gets real dull real quick. Like, camping holidays are fun, but I thought that as soon as we moved into a tent, it would kind of take the fun out of it.

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This is what I expected, anyway, but it isn’t even the case a little bit. Driving onto our little field at the end of a busy workday is such a lovely feeling, and being able to sit outside and watch rabbits run around your home is pretty darn cool. I think both of us got so used to this busy, repetitive, city monotony, that we almost forgot how quiet the countryside can be.

Not only is there physically nobody else there (aside from the other campers, of course), but there’s mentally fewer people there as well. Back in our house, even if it were just the two of us there, we’d be thinking about paying our gas bill – or the electricity, or water, or council tax… – there’s always someone who needs something from you. Out here in the wilderness (I’m so dramatic – we’re not that isolated), there’s only the campsite owner to pay once a week, and petrol to put in the car. Our minds are clearer, the streets are quieter, and there’s a whole lot more sheep.

Of course, there are always a few things that you totally forget to factor in when you’re doing the ‘hey, let’s move into a tent!’ thing. For example, we had a mad and wild panic the other day about leaving our electrics on, and now we have to make sure we turn the electricity off at the socket before going to work. Lighters can’t be left inside the tent, in case they, uh, explode… We had a great experience the other day where we left some butter in an empty lunchbox and came back to a nice oily mess. But we’re working our way around it. The chocolate we bought last night is currently sitting in Beth’s fridge at work, so that we can properly enjoy some solid food later.

We’ve learnt ho36326970_10212063864180826_1268439322957185024_nw to make salads interesting – and so far have made three or four different varieties for our dinners. Buying just enough fresh ingredients for the both of us on our way home from work is so much easier than trying to cook hot food on our gas stove (though we do still have that as an option!). As always, Beth cooks and I do the washing up — which is a perfect arrangement; if I were in charge of food, it would be far less impressive than some of the masterpieces Beth creates.

Another thing that tends to slip your mind when you’re spontaneously deciding to live in a field is washing. We briefly discussed the concept of washing our clothes before we moved here, and picked up some hand-wash detergent from the supermarket to keep in our supply box, but we didn’t really have to face it until we both ran out of underwear. Then we were digging around for plastic tubs and figuring out the best way to hang our knickers out to dry whilst still maintaining some dignity…

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Last night we met a lovely couple (and their adorable puppy, Sky) on site whilst filling our kettles, and they gave us lots of helpful advice for when we move to Oxford. We’re likely to be the campsites longest standing occupants, so it’s nice to see the other campers come and go, and hear all about their travels. Even nicer when they have cute dogs for you to spend your evening cuddling.

On another note, I’ve discovered I’m much more of a scatterbrain than I originally believed myself to be. Three days in a row, I’ve forgotten to take my bank card out of the tent with me, I’ve walked to the shower block only to find I’ve left my shampoo behind, and I struggle finding my toothbrush every single morning. But, to be fair, I think I was like this before we moved into the tent. Maybe I didn’t notice my disorganisation as much when we were in an actual house…

We’ve gotten into the swing of things over here in the Mendips – and I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired of sitting out with a brew and watching the sunset each night. If anything, I’m kind of disappointed that we spent four years miserably throwing a grand and a half a month at a private landlord, for a house we were only in a few hours a day… when we could have been living like this the whole time.*

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*Maybe not in the winter months. That’d be daft.

Writers for children should cling onto their imagination for as long as they can

Writing

An important question: can adults still act like kids and get away with it?

(An important answer: yes.)

I’m lucky enough that two of my closest friends are following the same career path as me. We are all aspiring children’s authors, which is wonderful and wild and an awful lot of fun, but sometimes it’s easy to slip, from writing kids stories, back into adult mode. Particularly when you have to flit from thinking of a great name for a magical kingdom, to wondering what date you’re supposed to pay council tax…

This weekend, my two budding kids lit writers and I had a sleepover. It was wild. I think – particularly if you’re writing for a teen (11-14) audience – having grown-up sleepovers is hugely important. It’s wonderful to forget how old you are for a second and immerse yourself into the nostalgia of your teenage years.

Of course, there are little details that remind you that you’re still kind of in the adult world. For example, rather than getting our mum’s to drop us off at Callen’s house, Sophie and I drove to Sainsbury’s to pick up all of the necessities (junk food, face masks, etc) and then dropped ourselves off at his house. Weird. But, still.

When we arrived, it was an immediate let’s all get into our PJ’s and listen to Taylor Swift on repeat moment, which is obviously the moment we’re all waiting for at a sleepover. We watched Beauty and the Beast (the new one, obvs! Emma Watson is stunning) and then took a ridiculous amount of photos – most of which ended up looking like awkward family portraits.

The point of this is: after we all went back to our respective houses on Sunday, I sat down to immediately write. There’s something about acting like a bit of a kid that will really open up your imagination, and suddenly it’s as if you are literally fifteen years old and you can delve right into the head of your character.

Getting into the heads of your intended target audience is a very common (and practically compulsory) technique when writing children’s literature. If you are writing for 8-12’s (middle grade, for American readers), then why aren’t you outside making magical ‘potions’ in the garden – or curled up in a makeshift sheet-den watching Spongebob Squarepants?

Maybe it’s easier for those writing for young adults (14+) because that’s the age we were most recently… but even so, get out there and do whatever your character does on their average evening. Go roller skating (if you’re skilled enough), or shopping with your friends, or go drink smuggled alcohol in a bush or smoke behind the bike sheds (no judging – if that’s the kind of character you have, roll with it).

Allow yourself to be a kid, for as long as you need to be. Think like your character, become your character – and then you can write in their voice so much easier.

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Read Callen’s blog here.

Reading Tarot Cards: A Beginners Guide

Spiritual

This is a strange thing for me to be writing, because reading tarot is not something that I have a huge amount of experience with, but it’s something that I feel comfortable doing (and my readings so far have been accurate!) so I wanted to share some advice that I would’ve found helpful a few months ago.

Earlier this year, I visited Glastonbury and had my cards read by a man there. The first thing he said whilst shuffling the cards was that he thought I was psychic, and he told me that I could read tarot. I had never touched a pack of tarot cards before, so I told him that (obviously) that couldn’t be true. He insisted that I should buy a pack of cards that I felt like I connected with and just go for it. He said that I shouldn’t read any ‘how-to’ books because I could use my intuition to read the cards. I did. He was right.

Here are a few tips, from a complete amateur, that might aid you if you want to start reading tarot. After I’ve laid out my personal tarot rules, I’ll run you through my basic process of tarot reading, as it’s quite a simple way of starting to read.

  • Don’t read the how-to books / websites. Tarot is a very intuitive thing, and if you read something that tells you a certain picture has a definitive meaning, then you’re not going to be able to give an accurate reading. Sure, certain images do have certain connotations – swords, for example, usually imply a degree of conflict. But, when all of the cards are laid out, your sword card may link to the others in a totally different way. It might be a physical conflict, an emotional conflict, or maybe the sword is just representing conflicting opinions or thoughts. This leads me onto my next point:
  • Use your intuition. Focus on the energy that the cards hold. When I’m doing readings, I always ask the person to think about what they’d like me to focus on beforehand, and I think their concentration really effects the cards and the ones that are dealt. Like I said, each card will have a different meaning for each person; don’t think about what the cards are supposed to mean, let your intuition take control.
  • Always use your own tarot cards. I’ve had a few people asking to borrow or use my tarot cards but, in the least selfish way, you should really only use them yourself. There is energy attached to cards, and I like to treat mine with respect and care. I personally feel like cards attach themselves to their owner, and I like to leave mine in direct sunlight or sit crystals and gemstones by them to kind of charge them in a way. In my opinion, using someone else’s cards or having someone else use yours runs the risk of different energies getting mixed up and readings coming out mixed or confused.

Like I said, these are just things that I personally believe, and I bet if you scoured the internet you would find tons of conflicting information, but like anything, tarot is something that is individual to each person. All I know is that, so far, I haven’t done a reading where I have felt lost or that I have no clue what the cards mean. Trust yourself, trust your instincts, trust your psychic energy, and your readings have more chance of being confident and accurate. So, bearing all of this in mind, this is basically a step-by-step of how one of my tarot readings will go.

  1. Set up the room so that it’s quiet and relaxed. I usually sit cross-legged on the floor facing the person who’s tarot I will be reading. It tends to be better to just have the two of you in the room so you can focus on the energy of a single person, but I don’t find it too difficult having someone else watch, too.
  2. Shuffle the cards, thoroughly, and talk to the person about what they’d like to explore in the reading. This can be anything from love life, to career, to a particular friend or family member. If they say something vague like ‘the future’, try to get them to narrow that down a little bit for you, especially if you’re a beginner.
  3. Get the person to shuffle the cards, all the while thinking about the subject they’d like to focus on. This is a great way of building up the transferable energy.
  4. I like to lay the cards out as five in a cross shape: three across, three down. I then lay one card to my right (I always, jokingly, call this one the ‘wild card’).
  5. The card in the middle of the cross is always the one that I feel is closest to the person – whether this is the closest to the emotions they are currently feeling, or the situation they are currently in, etc. I always turn over this card first, and the ‘wild card’ last.

There’s no way to tell you how to read tarot – and I’m not sure it’s something that you can teach. All I can suggest is that if you’re interested in reading tarot or you feel particularly connected to or energised by the idea, go for it. Buy yourself a pack of tarot cards (if you’re just starting off, grab some Rider Waite cards from Amazon, they’re fairly cheap) and try and give someone a reading. Important: pick someone you don’t know well. You’d be surprised how easy it is to just integrate information you already know about a person into the reading.

Anyway, I hope this was mildly helpful or insightful, and I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts and opinions on tarot reading! Good luck!

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