Majella ella ella

I am planning to leap back into the proverbial saddle and revisit my neglected – in fact barely started – manuscript of Majella Bracebridge, my would-be fourth novel.

As I’ve banged on about for too long now, writing (and indeed life itself, or so it feels) has been on hold for months while my husband and I prioritised our – as yet fruitless – quest to move house.  I miss scribbling, and find it physically impossible to suppress my creative side for too long.

I have projects I want to revisit.  Majella, of course, has scarcely got off the ground yet and I have some grand ideas, if I say so myself, for the direction in which to take that 1980s yarn.  I need to churn out a few more short stories for women’s mags too.  I have also been meaning for ages to have my last effort, The Four Matthews, bound into “book” form.

Finding a new place to live must obviously take priority, but there is no reason why in the forthcoming months I shouldn’t again pick up my (again proverbial) pen between house viewings.

As I’ve said before, life cannot be held in abeyance indefinitely.  I can’t forever make excuses not to write, nervous that indulging in something so frivolously decadent as my favourite hobby will somehow jeopardise our quest for a new home.

Maybe the eponymous Majella will even tempt fate: I shall become so embroiled in her exploits that I won’t want to stop writing but will have to because we have contracts to exchange, a removal van to load up, plants to buy for our prospective garden, etc, etc.


Who inspires me?

I’ve added a new page, listing a few of my favourite authors, with links to their websites and in some cases relevant video clips. I’m on a real (blog)roll here!!

Bumbling through zumba

And so last night I decided to have a crack at zumba, the Latino-inspired dance/aerobic craze, demonstrated here:

I know so many zumbaholics, and wanted to “see what all the fuss was about,” besides a desire to partake in another class during the week in addition to my beloved tai chi, to give my life a bit more structure and routine.

Hmm, I am not yet convinced.

To be fair, there were only four of us (it is holiday season, after all) in last night’s class, which is one of many in my neighbourhood.  So the atmosphere was not the buzziest, which is no reflection on our instructor who was great.

My coordination skills are pretty feeble, which doesn’t help!  I wasn’t exactly shimmying like Shakira (more like Anne Widdecombe actually).  I’m not quite sure zumba is going to be my “thing.”  I love tai chi (you’d never have guessed, eh?) and doing things in the gym, but following choreography at speed befuddled me somewhat!  By the time I had fathomed out a step, we were on to the next one.  And I haven’t quite mastered the whole “let your body go, don’t care what you look like” element.

I am not a dancer.  I think I prefer running on a treadmill and also “slower” activities which still give you a good workout, such as toning or bums ’n‘ tums.

I will persevere for a bit, though, as I don’t like to dismiss things too hastily.  Zumba is undoubtedly a bloody good workout, and I did leave feeling energised.

The tai chi journey…continuing…

I would like, if I may, to revisit this piece in my Non-Fiction section:

I’ve pasted the text below in case you don’t want to click on the link.

I wrote it for an anthology being put together by Kai Ming, my local tai chi organisation, and it also appeared in their newsletter.

I don’t often rake self-indulgently over past scribblings, but this one draws me back, just as the activity of tai chi itself does.

I love tai chi so much.  I can’t overemphasise that.  This may sound really brown-nosey, but each week when I attend the class I feel privileged to be partaking in the exercises and imbibing knowledge from my instructors.  It is therefore a far more intense class than, say, aerobics or zumba.

Focus is all; while executing the moves, your mind cannot be in Tesco, or at work, or anywhere but in the room.  In the zone.  For that hour I am so absorbedly concentrating on things like breathing and balance and shifting of body weight that I forget my troubles; forget the world.  I try to practise every day at home.

One of my very first blogs: describes my first class at Little Aston.  Three years on, I am still loving the journey.

My Tai Chi Journey

The local Kai Ming Tai Chi Association, with which my Wednesday night class is affiliated, recently asked would-be writers for contributions.  A sequel is being published to a book which came out about three or four years ago called View From the Back of the Class.  This is an anthology of articles, stories, poems and cartoons by class members and instructors.

So I thought I’d exercise my rather idle writing muscle and have a go at something:

 “Foorwarrrd…baackwarrrd…ward off riiiight!”  Raj’s voice was as hypnotic and warm as the Indian Ocean lapping rhythmically against the surrounding beach, as he guided us through the rudiments of what I would come to know as The Form.

This was my first taste of tai chi.

My husband and I were on honeymoon in heavenly Mauritius.  The wonderful Raj was quite possibly the most relaxed man I had ever met.  He had a wise, serene, “guru” air about him, was stupendously supple (he also taught yoga), possessed a permanent smile, and chanted instructions to us in a very long-vowelled Indian accent.

We were, believe it or not, the only participants in his tai chi class.  We occupied a private niche in the hotel gardens, where a heady brew of floral scents suffused the late afternoon air.

I had never experienced such utter contentment.


It was over a year later, in August 2008, when I heard that a new tai chi class had begun local to me, in the somewhat less exotic surroundings of Little Aston Village Hall.

Now admittedly utter contentment had been very easy to achieve in Mauritius, but I did go some way towards replicating the sense of wellbeing during that hour in Little Aston.

People talk a lot these days about going on a journey, be it literal or metaphorical.  I embarked on my personal tai chi journey that evening.  To the regular soundtrack of soft Chinese percussion music, I began to learn the 37-stage Cheng Man Ching Form – in obviously far more intricate detail than during half an hour with Raj among the jasmine flowers.

The standard posture took some getting used to initially: feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, pelvis tucked under, head lifted as if pulled upright by an invisible string.  Some of the exercises involved adopting positions which probably looked extremely silly yet felt entirely comfortable.  I was soon balancing wobble-free on one leg while twirling the other ankle for several minutes.

I remember the first time I rubbed my hands together then held my palms an inch apart to feel the flow of energy between them.  Oh yes, there was a definite force, as though something tangible and spongy was held here, like a ball of dough.  It was an electrifying and lovely feeling.

After the half-hour warm up the group split, with one instructor, Neil, taking us beginners (just two of us that week) aside to start the basics, while his colleague Mark progressed the more advanced members – who had been attending the class since April – further through the Form.

At the end of the class I felt so alive, yet in a different way to when I’m hiking over hills (I’m a keen walker too).  These exercises were neither aerobic nor gymnastic; in fact I had barely moved from my spot, but it was all about internal energy.  Mine was positively surging around my body.

It took a year to learn the form in full, averaging at one new step per week – steps which glory in such names as Single Whip, Repulse Monkey and Carry Tiger to the Mountain.  Once learned, each move is repeated and repeated and refined to the nth degree, with the focus on different facets.  Patience is not so much a virtue as a prerequisite in tai chi.  This is an art that can take a lifetime to practise and perfect.


I have well and truly fallen in love with tai chi.  The benefits to my health and general wellbeing have been enormous.  It can’t be a coincidence that I haven’t (touch lots of wood) had a day’s illness in three years.

I also find I sleep much better on “tai chi nights” (Wednesdays), and that just 10 minutes of practice a day – a routine I try and adhere to – takes me out of myself and calms me beyond belief.  The intricate moves require such intent concentration that all thoughts of everyday stresses are temporarily pushed out of the mind.

I am forever discovering inventive ways to incorporate tai chi into my daily life (a spot of Standing Post while waiting for the kettle to boil).   I am more conscious of my posture and balance; I feel physically stronger; I try, as often as I can remember, to “breathe abdominally!”

I would like to say a huge thank you to Neil and Mark for being such inspirational instructors!  Though I won’t be ruling out future excursions to Mauritius to revisit Raj.

If I’m bored, write a blog

That could become my new motto.  Not that I get bored very frequently, nor am I warning that all my future entries will be trite through being borne out of boredom or inactivity rather than a craving to write.  Perhaps I’ve worded that badly.  What I mean is that I feel composing a blog would be a more constructive use of my free time than, say, messing about on Facebook or YouTube or any of the other innumerable websites I frequent.

This is my way of saying I’d like to be a bit more prolific on here.  I am drawing inspiration from friends who are far more fruitful bloggers.  I love to write, of course, and am slowly easing myself back into it after a few months off.  We recently suffered a huge setback in our plans to move house.  My focus on that as yet fruitless venture was what pushed writing to the proverbial backburner.  It feels as though everything has been on hold for months now, including escapist scribblings.

This heartache has taught me it’s never really worth putting life on hold.  Wasn’t it John Lennon who said life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans?

I am coming up with ways to improve this site.  I have updated the Leigh’s Links page and the About Me stuff, and plan putting together a page of some of my favourite videos.  In the meantime, I shall endeavour to adopt the above as a mantra.  If I’m bored, write a blog.  If I’m bored, write a blog.

In the meantime, here’s a gratuitously cute shot of some Smurfs (they’re still for sale, you know):

Very random musings

I am aware I have been somewhat less than prolific on here of late, and for that I apologise.  Events in my life (I won’t go into details) have pushed writing to the proverbial backburner, and to be honest I doubt I shall be very productive at all this year.

I miss writing, I really do – hence my feeling this urge today to spew forth these utterly miscellaneous ruminations.

In the meantime I am reading as avidly as ever, and drawing inspiration from a fathomless pool of authors I am discovering and adding to my favourites list.  I am currently enjoying David Baddiel’s novels (actually I didn’t even know until recently that he’d written any).  I love his innovatively descriptive prose and “laddish” take on life, death and contemporary relationships.

I have also become newly obsessed with gardens.  The Leigh who would have rather pulled out her own teeth than spend more than one minute in a garden centre is dead.  I now actively seek out gardens, take “arty” close-up photographs of flowers, and am trying to familiarise myself with the names of common plants and blooms.

I watched an excellent (repeated, I think) BBC4 documentary last night about Hidcote Gardens in the Cotswolds, and its designer, the reclusive, eccentric American-born Major Lawrence Johnston.  It’s a National Trust attraction which has special resonance within our family, as my mum served in the tearooms there as a teenager and both my parents and my aunty and uncle had their wedding receptions there in the 1970s.  I have never actually visited Hidcote, but this programme served as a marvellous advert for it.  In fact I had no idea there was so much to the place.  Now I want to go!

Today is Sunday and I love Sundays, despite their inescapable proximity to the start of the working week.  It was for that reason (although back then it was the school week) that I used to dislike them, but these days I can’t dislike any days off.  Perversely, I quite like rainy Sundays: the cosiness; the lack of compulsion to go anywhere.  Saturdays tend to be all go, whereas Sunday has evolved in my chill-out day.  I like the laid-back nature of them: cooking the Sunday dinner, opening a nice bottle of red, listening to Elaine Paige and Paul O’Grady on Radio 2, watching ancient repeats of Blockbusters* and 3-2-1…ooh, I sure know how to live!!

*Oh, and Blockbusters – I just love the 90s fashions sported by the teenage contestants (scary to think they’d be in their mid-30s now)!!  Being of a similar age, I was wearing a lot of the same things back then so love the nostalgia trip.  Big hair was in, as were earrings the size of toilet seats, leggings, baggy T-shirts, floppy hats and bold colours.  How cool did we all think we looked!

Here’s an entertaining clip which may dredge up a few memories of 1990s styles and crazes:

Told you this was a random post!