Tag Archives: The Boy Wonder

Review of 2017: Vic Watson

The turn of the year comes around quick, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday I was telling you all how great 2016 had been! But, here we are, another year older with more experiences under our belts. I must thank everyone who has taken the time to review their year on the blog and to everyone who’s read, shared and commented posts from this blog throughout the last year. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2018! 

Professionally speaking, this year has been another cracker. Noir at the Bar has continued to grow, with factions popping up all over the UK. I’m delighted that the one in Newcastle continues to be popular and I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be in the Blues Bar in Harrogate on Thursday, 20th July. Presenting Noir at the Bar Harrogate to a packed audience was just incredible. Possibly one of the highlights of that day was a gentleman who asked me at the end of the event how often we ran it as he hadn’t known it was going to be on. I said “Sorry, have we hijacked your quiet afternoon pint?” He laughed and said he was thrilled to have stumbled upon the event and would definitely come to them on purpose in future! 

This year’s Newcastle Noir saw me do my first ever panel. I was on a panel with Susan Heads of the Book Trail, Quentin Bates, Sarah Wood and the powerhouse behind Orenda Books – Karen Sullivan. Our panel was moderated by the wonderful Miriam Owen and I enjoyed that hour immensely.

Another hour that was fun was appearing on the award-winning ArtyParti at Spark FM with Mandy Maxwell, Iain Rowan, Kirsten Luckins and Tony Gadd. We talked to Jay Sykes about writing and events, it was a lovely atmosphere and I felt completely relaxed thanks to the excellent host. 

My writing groups are still going strong and I arranged a stranding retreat on St Mary’s Island in August and the participants gave very positive feedback. I hope to run more retreats next year. 

I’ve had a lot of people asking if I’ve finished my novel yet and when they’ll be able to buy it so that’s very encouraging. I’ve also had a few people tell me they’d like to hear it on Audible which is a real compliment. Thanks to my friend Kay setting me an achievable weekly word target, I’ve almost completed my first draft. 

Hmm, favourite personal memory? Tough one, that. Well, I suppose I’d better say that getting married to the love of my life was the highlight of my year. Just kidding – of course it was! 

I walked down the aisle with my dad to ‘You’re So Cool‘ by Hans Zimmer (featured in ‘True Romance‘) in front of our closest friends and family. 

Instead of going for sugar almonds as wedding favours, we gave everyone a book. The Boy Wonder and I are both bookworms and we therefore wanted to give our guests a personalised gift. We didn’t have a lot of guests and we enjoyed thinking which book to choose for each of the guests – we were like a real life algorithm! 

The day we got married, I was emailed by the production team from ‘The Chase’ to say that my episode – recorded in July 2016 – would be aired on 30th March so watching that was a lot of fun too.

OK, I didn’t mention ‘The Chase’ in my 2016 Review but, contractually, I wasn’t allowed! Watching my episode, despite knowing the result, was nerve-wracking. I actually didn’t mind seeing myself on TV – I was nowhere near as critical of myself as I was expecting to be! I watched with my husband (I love saying that), my brother and three friends. I got lots of lovely messages from friends all over the country.  

I’d also like to say what a special day my hen do was. I never wanted a fuss and opted to go for afternoon tea with my friends and my mum. I cannot explain what a lovely occasion that was. Those wonderful women made me feel like a million bucks. 

My film of the year was ‘Get Out‘, second would be ‘Dunkirk‘. 

I have enjoyed many books this year including ‘Darktown‘ by Thomas Mullen, ‘The Prime of Miss Dolly Greene‘ by E.V Harte, ‘Lost for Words‘ by Stephanie Butland and ‘Small, Great Things‘ by Jodi Picoult. I also loved ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven‘ by Chris Cleave. And a late entry has to be ‘Good Me, Bad Me‘ by Ali Land. However, my top three – in no particular order – are ‘Six Stories‘ by Matt Wesolowski, ‘Yellow Room‘ by Shelan Rodger and ‘The Break‘ by Marian Keyes. 

Song of the year? Hm. Anything that was on our wedding playlist – we chose all the songs ourselves. We tried to have at least one track for each of the wedding guests so either a track that reminded us of them or one we knew they liked.
Other music I’ve listened to this year includes a lot of music from the Nashville OSTs, ‘…Ready For It?‘ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do‘ by Taylor Swift. 

There has been illness and sadness but most of us are still here – and that is wonderful.

However, the death of Helen Cadbury in June was a tremendous loss to many of us in the writing community – and beyond. Helen was a friend to me. She was always kind, supportive and quick with a joke. She pulled out of Noir at the Bar in February because she was poorly but I didn’t know the extent of her illness. In July, we raised our glasses to toast Helen at Noir at the Bar in Newcastle and Harrogate. Helen made such a positive impact on so many that it felt right to dedicate the events to her.

The last time I saw Helen was at Harrogate Festival in July 2016 although I had spoken to her since. She, Lucy Cameron and I joked about having similar hair colours and styles. Helen said we should call ourselves the three northern blondes and take a selfie. For some reason, that photo didn’t get taken and I regret that missed opportunity.

I have yet to read ‘Race to the Kill‘, the final novel in the Sean Denton trilogy, or her collection of poetry, ‘Forever Now‘, because I don’t want to come to the end of Helen’s work. Of course, I won’t put it off forever. 

Resolutions? Just keep on keeping on, I think. I over commit and trying not to do that remains a work in progress. 

I hope that this world will sort itself out. There are so many things going wrong and I hope that things will be put right but in order for that to happen, we all need to engage. 

Review: ‘Habibi’ by Craig Thompson

I bought ‘Habibi’ for The Boy Wonder after someone declared it “the best book of 2011” on BBC’s The Review Show.

In this comic book / graphic novel, I found the most extraordinary story. Based on a Middle-Eastern fairytale, ‘Habibi’ tells the story of Dodola, a girl who escapes slavery and finds an abandoned baby who she names Zam. This ambitious story charts the evolution of Dodola and Zam’s relationship from parent and child to siblings to something else altogether.

This beautifully illustrated story combines a story of love with religious stories, illustrating the connections between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The illustrations are in black and white but they provoke such colourful mental images that when I think of the story now, I see it in Technicolor.

The story and the drawings are detailed, dramatic and moving. The tale itself is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It has an environmental conscience, noting the damage being done to the landscape and the unfair distribution of wealth. It may be a parable but it’s very realistic.

I urge you to read Craig Thompson’s epic masterpiece.

Vic x

Going where I’ve never gone before…

Tomorrow, at the grand old age of twenty-seven years, seven months and four days old I shall attempt something I have never done before. I am cooking the family meal. Ok, of course, I’ve made salads, beans on toast, cheese toasties and even the odd jacket potato but tomorrow I am planning something major: Mexican night!

Usually, if I eat Mexican it’s at a restaurant or The Boy Wonder cooks for me. I know, I’m a lucky girl. Tomorrow, though, I’m taking it upon myself to cook for my mum, dad and younger brother. Now, many of you who read this blog will know that not only am I a picky eater but I am not a domestic goddess. I prefer to spend my time constructively – reading!

So, what’s on the menu?

Well, fajitas. And the worrying thing is, every time someone has attempted to make fajitas in our house for the last twelve months, it has appeared to be the catalyst for some argument in our house. So it is with double trepidation that I plan to cook them. Pray for no conflict! Sadly my brother refuses to eat peppers or onions so that will mean cooking them separately from the chicken. I feel argumentative already….!

Also, I intend to make my own potato wedges. Risky, I know seeing as I am not a domestic goddess in the least. Having been given instructions by TBW, what could possibly go wrong? 

I’m also going to make some cheesy nachos and attempt to make quesadillas.

This experiment is mainly because I fancy a Mexican tomorrow but I know my family will be waiting with bated breath. And possibly the takeaway on speed dial…

Vic x

One of the happiest days of my life

In April of this year, I got an email from 6th Element Publishing and Writer’s Block North-East to congratulate me on submitting three stories for the ‘Home Tomorrow’ competition. I knew I had not won (having seen a list of winners published on the Facebook page) but I was informed that they would like to include all three of my submissions in the anthology. Since then, I had an email saying 6th Element felt it would be better to include one submission per author so I had to pick which one of my babies were my favourite.

So, I have been eagerly awaiting publication of this anthology since April. Every few weeks, The Boy Wonder will enquire as to what’s happening with the book, to which I reply “Search me”. I get several books through the post every week to be reviewed so when I nipped home yesterday, I thought the package on my bed was yet another book to review. To my surprise, though, I opened it and there it was: ‘Home Tomorrow’, featuring a short story by little ol’ me.

When I was reviewing for the local newspaper, my byline was a frequent sight and I have reviewed for a national magazine but nothing compared to this feeling; seeing something that I had written in print, completely my own, was just amazing.

The Boy Wonder seemed more excited than me! And knowing that I have someone that supportive in my life is an even better feeling.

I know I have a long way to go yet. My novel sits at 20,000 words and I have umpteen short stories sitting on my hard drive but this is most definitely a step in the right direction!

Vic x

Get your copy of ‘Home Tomorrow’ here: http://www.6epublishing.net/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=87&category_id=18&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=60

Filling a bottle with golf balls…..

“A teacher stood in front of his philosophy class and without saying a word, took a big glass bottle and filled it up with golf balls. Afterwards he ask the students if they thought the bottle was full, to which they said yes. The teacher took a box full of beads and emptied in the bottle. The beads filled up the spaces between the golf balls. The teacher asked again his students if the bottle was full, and they said yes again.

After he had done this, he took another box, this time full of sand, and again, he poured it inside the bottle. The sand filled up the remaining spaces between the golf balls and the beads. He asked again to his students if they thought the bottle was full, and they answered ‘YES’. At the end, he took to cups of coffee and emptied them inside the bottle while the students started laughing.

When the laugh stopped, the teacher said:

‘I want you to take a close look to the bottle. It represents life. The golf balls are the important things in life such as your family, kids, health, friends, love, things that you are passionate about. They are things that, even if you lost the rest and you only had them, your life would still be full. The beads represent the rest of things in life that are important like work, the house, the car…and the sand is the little things’

‘If we filled up the bottle with the sand first, there would be no place left for the beads nor for the golf balls. The same thing happens in life. If we spent all our time and energy in little things, we would never have place for the real important things. Pay attention to the things that are more important for your happiness. Go out to dinner with your couple, play with your kids, give yourself time to go to the doctor, do some sport, enjoy your hobbies…’

‘There will always be time to clean the house, to repair the water tub. Take care of the golf balls first, take care of the real important things. Make yourself a list of priorities, because the rest is just sand’

One of the students raised up his hand and asked what did the coffee represent. The teacher smiled and said:

‘Im very happy that you ask me that! The coffee is just to show you that even when you think your life is completely full, there is always space to take 2 cups of coffee with a friend’. “

Thanks to my friend Pippa on http://somewherealongthisline.wordpress.com/ I read this story and it really struck a chord with me.

My golf balls are my family and The Boy Wonder as well as reading. I know reading might sound a bit of a funny thing to be so important but if I don’t have anything to read, I feel at a complete loss. Without books, I would not know how to function. Reading not only entertains me but it informs me and gives me a purpose.

I’d say the beads are my writing. I don’t write every day but I know I can pick it up where I left off and still feel happy when I do.

This story illustrates perfectly how you can get hung up on the big things and not realise that a lot goes into having a fully rounded life. And a cup of coffee with friends is an absolute godsend. It can solve a lot of life’s ills and even if it’s not a cure, it’s guaranteed to make you smile. So even if you don’t feel like it, it’s worth pushing yourself to meet your friend even if just for a quick cuppa – it’s good for you.

Vic x

Review: Allard’s Lounge, Tynemouth

Last night, The Boy Wonder and I decided to go out for cocktails at Tynemouth’s newest bar, Allard’s Lounge. On arriving, we were greeted with a very busy bar despite the fact that we had arrived before 7pm. Allard’s is open from 9am every day until 11pm and serves food throughout until 9pm. The people at the tables looked like a mixture of people who had been out for the day and were enjoying a drink or bite to eat with their kids before heading home and people who were just starting their night. So there was a range of outfits – everything from shorts and t-shirts to mini skirts and dresses.

We didn’t have to wait too long for a table and enjoyed people watching, as well as appreciating the unique decoration. There was music being played but as the evening wore on, it became impossible to hear due to the volume of conversations but the ambience is perfect.

Allard’s is quite a narrow building but they have made use of the space they have perfectly. Their extensive cocktail menu is really impressive and, having sampled several between us last night, we can say that although they are around £5 or over, they are well worth the money. I tried a Strawberry Daiquiri, a Black Forest Fizz and a Metropolitan along with a Bailey’s Hot Chocolate. The Boy Wonder tried a Whiskey Sour, a Tequila Old Fashioned, A Voodoo Zombie (with a very interesting glass) and a Mai Tai. I can honestly say I have not had cocktails this well done anywhere else in the UK.

Having read the food menu, we decided to be ambitious and go for tapas. And I am so happy we did. We had tomato, onion and mozzarella salad with seared beef in a peppered sauce, as well as chicken in wholegrain mustard, chorizo and potato and chicken and peppers along with some potatoes, peppers and onion. Wow! Although it sounds like a lot, the joy of tapas is the fact that you can try a lot of different things because they aren’t huge portions. The seared beef was my favourite with the chicken in wholegrain mustard coming in a close second. Sadly, we found out after the meal that you can ask the staff for as much bread as you like (mental note for next time!). We got all of that food for £22.80 which I thought was exceptional value for money.

The Boy Wonder had Strawberry Cheesecake for afters and I had Eton Mess. They were both nice but not a patch on the mains.

This was the best night out we’ve had in ages. The ambience is terrific, the decoration is beautifully unique, the staff are very friendly and helpful and the food was terrific. I cannot recommend it enough.

We will definitely be going back.

Vic x

My lack of willpower revealed.

This evening I had an epiphany. Ok, so I have been going through a rough time health-wise which leaves me unable to do a lot but that is no excuse for my disgusting eating habits.

As you will have read a couple of weeks ago, I am a picky eater however I am expanding my sphere of interest quite regularly now and this increasing interest in food has certainly not helped my backside – it is huge.

I will always be a curvy girl, I am hourglass / pear-shaped and nothing will change the structure of my bones. What I can change, though, is the extra padding I have around my bottom and hips.

It occurred to me whilst tucking into six chicken nuggets and chips plus milkshake followed by a McFlurry at 11pm this evening that I have become the type of person I despise. I am the type of person who is too lazy to bother with making a meal and therefore the pull of convenience food proves too strong.

I have always enjoyed going out for meals but recently TBW and I have been nipping out to a countryside pub once a week for a meal. Then there’s the sometimes-more-than-once-weekly takeaways.

I know that my energy levels aren’t great because of being poorly but I guess they’re not being helped my sugar peaks and crashes thanks to chocolate bars from the work vending machine plus my penchant for pop. I am not intending on starving myself but I would like to be the girl I once was – the girl who loved salads and small portions. The girl who only had to worry about if a pair of jeans were long enough in the leg, not if they were wide enough to get over her arse.

I may not be able to run for miles, or even walk a few miles but I need to adopt the mindset of “every little bit is better than nothing”. Next week, I want to find a yoga class and start that. Part of my reason for this post is for encouragement as it will be hard for me to sustain this mindset. I will be too tired to exercise or rustle up a salad – I need you guys to support me.

I’m going on my holidays in six months and I would like to drop at least two stone.

Wish me luck.

Vic x