Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Sherri Matthews #Memoir – Holiday Reading, Ghosts And The Norfolk Broads

Good Monday morning/afternoon,dear friends! Things have been busy at the Summerhouse these past few weeks, culminating with not one, but two trips to London in just the last week. All or nothing, it seems. The first, of course, to the Bloggers Bash and the second to see Metallica at the Twickenham Stadium with my boys. My first time at a real live gig and it was awesome, amazing, surreal…all of those and much more. Perfect timing then to wrap things up with a nice, relaxing boating holiday, albeit one from my 2014 archives. Massive and grateful thanks once again to lovely Sally Cronin and her wonderful Smorgasbord Blog Magazine for featuring the fourth and final of my archive memoir posts. I hope you’ll join me for this brief sojourn on the Norfolk Broads, but beware: a lake at sunset brings a ghostly tale, and a true one at that… Enjoy!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. In the final post this series Sherri takes us on a holiday to the Norfolk Broads, a fabulous boating holiday, and an introduction to the more ghostly side of this idyllic part of the country.

Holiday Reading, Ghosts And The Norfolk Broads

Holiday reading. What beats a book crammed full of twists and turn, thrills and spills to keep us occupied while lazing on the beach or reclining on a deck chair by the side of a pool somewhere hot and Mediterranean? What indeed!

When Lisa set her prompt for this week’s Bite Size Memoir challenge as ‘Holiday Reads’ my memories took me not to the beach or the pool but back to the annual holidays we took as a family…

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Five Years And Another Fab Bloggers Bash 2019

London called and I heeded. Why else but for the Annual (and fifth!) Bloggers Bash? Hubby and I travelled by train the day before on Friday, making a short getaway of it.

As an aside, it never fails to amaze me the things some people might stuff down a toilet – and on a South Western train that often runs late, who can blame them? – but hopes and dreams? Surely not…

(And no, I don’t make a habit of creeping into public toilets to sneak photos of toilet seats…but for a blog post, so be it.)

Moving swiftly on…as we did by taxi from Waterloo Station (pun not intended) to our hotel.

Houses of Parliament & the London Eye whizzing by

A warm and sunny afternoon of the sort that invites you for an evening stroll around a park beckoned. But first, we enjoyed a delicous meal of chicken tacos, guacomole and refried beans at nearby Loco Mexicano, a place we scoped out two years ago at the 2017 Blogger’s Bash. California, I miss Mexican food!

View of Vincent’s Square Park from our room

So at last to the Bash! On Saturday morning, hubby headed off for his day out in London and I to the Grange Wellington Hotel , though with butterflies! Why, I don’t know. I’ve been to all the BBs, but with all the lovely welcoming hugs as soon as I arrived, they scattered.

Sacha opened up the event with a stirring welcome encouraging us to look back on the five years since the first Bloggers Bash in 2015, to take stock of our achievements and look ahead to our next goals. I was moved by her heartfelt speech, thinking of all that’s happened personally in that time. And five years goes fast, I know that…

The BB is a fantastic opportunity to meet up and catch up with old friends and make new, really wonderful people all, and this year was no exception. But there is one problem, which is I forget to take photos when I get chatting.

Here are some, as promised, but do check out the Bloggers Bash & ABBA Award public Facebook Group for links to some great blog posts and photos of the day, and don’t forget to check out Hugh’s blog soon when he will be posting his video…oh yes, the video…

Lovely seeing Mary, Marje, EstherRitu & Hugh again.

Lovely Willow and Marje
(Just caught Graeme in the background, who did an excellent job as compère for the day)

Managed to catch Shelley for this lovely pic with Adam

The BB committee organised two great speakers:

Award-winning blogger Laura Creaven, creator of food blog Full to the Brum, shared her experiences, tips and advice together with her fab sense of humour.

Author Gemma Todd (G X Todd) shared her incredibly inspiring journey to a traditional publishing contract for four books with Headline Publishing.

Esther, Shelley and Laura headed up an interesting and helpful Q&A panel and of course, inbetween the presentations, the committee members took turns handing out all the awards.

Congratulations award winners! The full list is posted at
The Annual Bloggers Bash website.

Suzie and Sacha presented a Flay Lay workshop which I really enjoyed.  I didn’t know what it was, never mind how to do one, but I came away inspired with a host of new ideas.  Essentially, it’s a simple but highly effective way of creating a professional visual to showcase a story for anything you want (latest books and promotions for instance). I don’t have an Instagram account, but they’re great for blog posts and any social media.

Suzie came armed with supplies and challenged us to make our own Flat Lay. Yikes…what to do? Then I thought…Gemma inspired me so much with her publishing story, that I went with my dream (book launch – not lunch, I did check, though that would be great too –  in New York, anyone?)…

My first ever Flat Lay!

 Thank you, lovelies!

Suzie and Sacha

All in all, a really fantastic day.  We talked, laughed, had a drink or two, ate cake (thank you, Ritu, delicious!), listened and learned and then it was all over in a blink. Hubby and I couldn’t stay too long afterwards unfortunately, as we had a train to catch back to Somerset. We got home around 11pm, tired but happy.

Thank you so much Sacha, Geoff, Hugh Suzie, Helen, Graeme and Adam, the first rate committee who work so hard all year long to make this wonderful annual event possible. As always, I enjoyed every minute. Now all I’m wondering is, when’s the next one?

 

 

 

 

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Sherri Matthews -#Memoir – My Dad, The Great Train Robbery and A Game of Cricket

A huge thank you once again to wonderful Sally Cronin for sharing the third of my archive memoir posts,and also her lovely and touching introduction. I’m greatly humbled to re-share this post written in 2013 about my dear old dad, three years before he passed away. With Father’s Day approaching it’s a good time to say thanks for the great memories, Dad…I miss you ❤ Have a great weekend all and Happy Father’s Day to all you great dads and granddads out there…you rock! I’m off to the Blogger’s Bash in London and hope to get some good pics. See you soon! Love Sherri x

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. This week Sherri shares her father’s story, which was complicated. It is a frank look at his life and also acknowledgement of how much he is loved. This was first posted in 2013. Sherri’s father sadly passed away in 2016, but she had dedicated her blog to him with a lovely tribute..About Sherri Matthews

My Dad, The Great Train Robbery and A Game of Cricket

Today is my dad’s 81st birthday. Not so unusual these days (what is 80 now anyway, the new 40?) except in this case my dad is a raging alcoholic who has spent the best part of the last 35 years of his life in prison. No small miracle, then, that he gets to celebrate this day.

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Three Little Words: I Did It

Dear friends, don’t worry, this isn’t a confession. Net yet…  What I did (this week) is finish those edits. My memoir manuscript (just about there, I hope…) is off for a final read through with a massive ‘Thank You’  to my wonderful editor, Esther Chilton.

Being a memoir, you would think it would be easy to get it down and just write it. Beginning. Middle. End. Sorted. No characters to dream up, no plot to invent and no twists to develop, because they’re already there. But the structure as told using the elements of fiction proved a mighty challenge to this writer.

The beginning proved the biggest challenge of all. The end, as it turned out, came easily but not until the very end. And the title didn’t come to me until two years in after finally getting down the first draft.

My ‘final’ draft sent for editing last November had a couple of confusing timelines. Easy to fix, I thought, except it then meant hunting for other parts needing fixing a few chapters back. Or forward. Not to mention some important details I had left out.

‘Every adventure requires a first step’ Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (Eidfjord Fjord, Norway)

For me, I’ve discovered, the best way to get the job done is to binge write. That means all day every day and everything else slides. But I wouldn’t recommend it: my eyes are blurred, my back aches and my brain is fried. No matter. Whispering those three little words to you now makes it all worth it. Can I say them again? I Dit It.

As always, thank you so much to those who’ve kept in touch on and off blog, and allowing me the luxury of talking endlessly about my book and its process. It helps, a lot!

Next week, time to catch up. Meanwhile, wonderful Sally Cronin is featuring the second of four of my archive memoir posts at her fab blog, Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.  I wrote The Great British Staycation And A Brew Up California Style  in July, 2013, after six months blogging and a couple of months into my book.

A lot’s happened since then, but it’s lovely knowing Sally all that time as one of the very first bloggers I followed.  I also had the very great pleasure of meeting her at the Annual Bloggers Bash 2017.  Huge thanks to Sally for her amazing support to me and bloggers everywhere.

Have a great weekend, all, and see you next week.

Love Sherri x

 

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Sherri Matthews – #Memoir – Times Past Challenge: Chinese Spoons And Eating Out

Hello again dear friends, too long away and enough said about that because setbacks will always prevail, but I am hard at work bringing this round of edits to a close, almost there for the final read through. Hooray! Meanwhile, thank you so much to wonderful Sally Cronin who is featuring four of my archive memoir posts at her fantastic blog for the next four Thursdays. Truly honoured to guest post with Sally, her support invaluable in keeping the Summerhouse ticking over.

Today is about my dad and Chinese Spoons. I realise in the post I mention it was my last meal with my dad in a restaurant, but it was written before I took him out for his 80th birthday. He was in a half-way house by then, and that was the last meal we had out together. How grateful I am for that chance. The passage of time certainly concentrates the mind, doesn’t it? Onward and upward it is then…and as always, thank you so much for reading. Love Sherri x

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. In her first post.. a little nostalgia and for those of us who enjoyed our first dining experiences in a Chinese restaurant of one of the steak houses such as Berni Inn.. it will bring back memories.

Times Past Challenge: Chinese Spoons And Eating Out

Dressed to impress in my purple and white midi dress my mother had made for me and patent leather, navy-blue sling back shoes with block heels, I walked into the dimly lit Chinese restaurant, mesmerised by the brightly coloured lanterns hanging from the ceiling and the soft, almost hypnotic music filling the room.

It was the mid 70’s, I was twelve and staying with my dad for the school holidays in Brighton, and he was taking…

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First Day of School And Wave Goodbye To Dad

Always a fan of Irene Water’s ‘Times Past‘ posts,  her latest memoir prompt, ‘School Uniforms’, brings back more than a few memories.

First School Uniform

As a tail-end baby boomer attending Primary School in 1960’s England, my school uniform was standard grey tunic, white shirt, navy tie and cardigan (knitted by my mother because it was cheaper back then to make your own clothes).

I wore my navy blue blazer with pride, but loved the start of summer when I could wear my cotton gingham dress.

What strikes me more than my uniform, however, are the vivid memories of my mother hand-sewing white labels embroidered with my name on every last item. And I mean everything including socks, vests and knickers. White for everyday, navy for P.E.

By middle school, short gym skirts in maroon were allowed, but did nothing to keep my legs warm playing hockey on a field rock-hard with frost.

Fashion by the mid 1970’s dictated midi-length skirts. No longer worried about girls hoiking skirts up to their thighs, teachers now forbade us to wear them more than an inch below the knee.  This would not do. Thanks to a group of girls who wore make up and not a hint of uniform, my friends and I escaped Teacher’s wrath, ignoring our skirts with hems at the calves. They had bigger fish to fry.

Unfortunately, the platform shoes let me down.

My pride and joy: brown and yellow lace ups with a platform a good few inches high. They must have stood out, because my mother got a letter one day from the headmaster. He warned that if I continued wearing them and fell down the stairs breaking my leg/neck/whatever, they would not be responsible. I wore them anyway, sneaking past the headmaster or any teacher I thought might bust me, and other than a lace or two, I didn’t break a thing.

But one memory stands out above the rest and it belonged to my dad. Not one to talk much about the past, during a prison visit with him in his later years,  he reminisced about taking me to school on my first day.

‘We said goodbye, I gave you a big squeeze and watched you walk off and thought how grown up you looked in your uniform, but so small in the crowd…I worried about you…’ Dad smiled, a wistful glint in his eyes.  ‘That satchel, it looked so big…!’

We laughed together at the memory.  I could remember the brown, leather satchel draped across my shoulder and the way it bumped heavily against my hip when I walked, but everything else was vague.

‘I’ll never forget it, ‘ Dad continued. ‘You’d almost disappeared, but suddenly you stopped, turned around and gave me a little wave…and I knew you would be all right. Brings a lump to my throat even now…’

Fifty years hence from that first day of school, I would turn and wave to Dad for the last time, the day before he died.  He rasied his head from the pillow on his hospital bed,  smiled and waved back as I said goodbye with a promise to see him in the morning.

Now it was Dad’s turn to tell me he was all right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How To Write (And Finish) Your Book in 5 Easy Steps

STEP ONE:
Tell everyone you know you’re going away for three months, preferably six.  When they ask where, tell them somewhere with no internet or phone signal or pets (see Step Two).

A room by the water in the Norwegian fjords should do the trick…

Or a cabin in the mountains just five minutes away.

STEP TWO:
If your cat does insist on coming with you, make sure you also take an external hard drive (you have no internet, remember) and Save Save Save. That way you won’t panic when dear Catkins dashes across your keyboard and hits the delete key. So what if your entire manuscript just vanished before your eyes? Who cares? Not Catkins. He’s calculated with at least five lives left, he’s got nothing to lose: if he can wrap presents, he can help you…

Write Your Book.

STEP THREE:
So far, so good. But a few weeks in, you sit down to write and you freeze. You stare at the screen and you hate what you read. Oh no, this isn’t happening, not now. You pace the room like a caged beast ranting to yourself. You’ve lost your mind  Call yourself a writer? You can’t write. You’re an imposter and your writing’s crap. Your mind’s a jumble of no good for nothing. Yes, that’s right…

You’re In Writer’s Block Hell.

But do not fear. All is not lost. 

Pull something from the jumble and focus.  If a gnome can live happily in a gravy boat strung with five pretty lights, you can write your book. Okay?

STEP FOUR:
If that doesn’t work, you need inspiration…

Take a walk by the sea and declutter.

You never know who you might bump into…


How about a five-piece metal band to mess with stimulate your mind?

 

STEP FIVE:

And when you’ve done all that, pop the bubbly: of the 97% of writers who start their book but never finish, you’re one of the 3% who didn’t quit. High-fives, cheers and congratulations…

You Did It!

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NB: This is my entry for the Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition 2019. The theme is any subject with the number ‘Five’.

 

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The 2019 Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition

Happy Friday, dear friends with a quick post to announce that The Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition is back! In honour of this, the fifth year running for the Bloggers Bash, the competition theme is the number ‘Five’. Any subject, any layout, all submissions welcome from bloggers everywhere. All rules and instructions in the reblog below. The competition closes at 23:59 GMT on Sunday 24th March 2019. This looks like a fun contest with huge scope for creative expression!

The Annual Bloggers Bash

The Bloggers Bash Blog Post competition is back!

This year, the Bloggers Bash will be celebrating its 5th year when Bloggers from all over the world gather at The Grange Wellington Hotel, London, on June 15th, 2019.

What are this year’s competition themes?

Because we’re celebrating our 5th year of bringing bloggers together, one of the themes for this year’s blog post competition is the number ‘five.’

The other theme for the competition is to create, write, and publish a blog post that stands out above all other blog posts. Simply put, we’re asking you to write the best blog post ever which has the theme of ‘Five’.

Here are a few examples to get your creative cogs turning.

  • Share your top five blogging or writing tips.
  • Tell us about your top five of anything.
  • Write a piece of flash fiction or a…

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Annual Bloggers Bash 2019: Blog Award Nominations Now Open

Anyone blogging for a few years (six for me) no doubt remembers those early days when all those awards and blog hops did the rounds. Back then, I blogged three, sometimes four times a week.  Hard work and incredibly time-consuming and yes, unimaginable now, but it was a lot of fun and worth it for the lovely blogging friends I made.

Something had to give, however, if I was ever going to finish my book, that something being blogging. If I was grateful for anyone who read and ‘liked’ my blog back then, never mind left a comment, I’m even more thankful today if I manage a blog post at all, even more so for your wonderfully encouraging visits, dear fellow bloggers and behind the scene readers.  I can’t tell you enough how much it means to me…

So…since I’m still scraping along as a blogger, I wanted to help spread the exciting news that  The Annual Bloggers Bash is back – for its fifth year!  Which of course also means  it’s time for us to nominate our favourite blogs for the Annual Blog Awards.

Nominations are open until the end of March, the rules and submission details here.  Awards are presented at the Bloggers Bash to be held on Saturday, June 15th.  This year, there are several new categories.  Ater the close of nominations, there will be public vote for the winner of each.

All the Bash details are on the wonderful new The Annual Bloggers Bash Website where you can also buy your ticket. Worth mentioning that the early bird tickets are only available until 31st March.

I’ve been fortunate to have attended all four previous Bashes and I’m looking forward to going again. It’s a fantastic event which the Committee work hard all year round to make both professional as well as great fun, with lots of new exciting activities planned for this year:

‘The Bloggers Bash is a social event for bloggers created by Sacha, with the help of her committee who are Geoff, Hugh, Suzie, Helen, Graeme and Adam. Its purpose is to bring together the blogging community and provide an opportunity for everyone to meet the friends they have made online. To see images from some of our previous events, click here to be taken to our gallery!’

(Annual Bloggers Bash Website)

It’s a wonderful chance to meet fellow bloggers in the flesh, those real people behind their blogs and profile pics.  Even if geograhically it isn’t possible, there’s live streaming on the day via Facebook connecting blogging friends around the world. I’ve made some great friends thanks to the BB, and would urge anyone thinking about attending to give it a try if you can.  Lots of warm hugs await, promise.

(Pssst…I didn’t have a clue what I was doing the first time I went, back when we met at a Pizza Express in London in 2015, but I’m so glad I did. If I can do it, so can you…)

Hope to see you there!  Love Sherri x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summerhouse Snow And Pressing On

This must be my latest yet for wishing you all a Happy New Year… I tried to squeeze in before the end of January, but didn’t make it.  Still, at least I managed it before Valentine’s Day…

How are things in your neck of the woods, dear friends?  Here, the Summerhouse sits in Somerset Snow all very pretty and very cold.  My geraniums, however, flourish in the porch as they did last winter…

View from the Porch

This is the first snow of the season, which for us in the West Country of England is not that common these days.  Last year’s snow in March was not typical by any means.  I shiver now when I think how close hubby and I came to spending the night in our car…

We can go years and not have any snow at all in these parts.  It’s funny how my family still gets excited when it does.  I grew up in Suffolk in the 70’s and know all about those blizzards when the wind whips up a frigid blast across the North Sea sending snow drifts through the back door.  Them were the days…

But my now adult children grew up in California.  We had snow, if we wanted it, up in the mountains a couple of hours away. But they never had it fall on their doorstep, never watched  snowflakes flutter past their bedroom windows and settle deep enough for making a snowman in their own back garden.

So we get excited.

To Kitty who is growing up fast, now fully recovered after her spay operation last week.  She surprised us all when she came into heat at only four months old over Christmas.  Poor little thing.  And poor Eddie.  He’s almost thirteen, a grand old Boy, and does not understand, much less tolerate, such behaviour.  With all that done with, thank goodness, they’re happily restored as friends, happily eating one another’s food given half the chance.

Kitty helping with the laundry

My other news is I’m cracking on with my book edits to ready my memoir for submission to publication, but January flew by in a blur of doctor/hospital/specialist appointments for my family, and will continue like that for several more weeks.

Meanwhile, thank you so much for dropping by when you can and visiting the Summerhouse (and me!) through rain, shine or snow. I look forward to catching up as soon as possible.  In the words of Arnie, I’ll be back!

Love Sherri x

 

 

 

 

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