Wilfred is a rescue racing pigeon that I am currently looking after with my sister Samantha. He came to me last Thursday after someone found my contact details online and phoned. I get quite a lot of calls every week about injured birds and animals, normally I can give advice but sometimes, if they need urgent help then I collect them and bring them in for evaluation. Wild birds usually need a couple of days treatment and then taking to a Sanctuary for monitored release.
Wilfred was dropped at my house last Thursday night. He has a badly broken leg and burns on his chest and under one wing. We think he flew into an electricity pylon.
The problem was that Wilfred was a racing pigeon, so strictly speaking he was owned by someone-else and classed as a domestic bird. That meant that when I took him to the vet for painkillers and antibiotics it isn't covered by any wildlife fund and the owner had to be notified.
I have heard a lot of terrible things about pigeon fanciers but I contacted Wilfred's owner to see what he wanted to do. The expense of treating a bird that will never race again isn't one most pigeon fanciers will take on. The result was that Wilfred should be put to sleep. I managed to convince the owner to sign him over to me so that I could pay for any future treatment.
It's touch and go. Some days Wilfred is preening and eating, others he sits in his cage and looks miserable. He likes cuddles and loves people talking to him. His leg is splinted but he is so terribly underweight there is no way he'd survive an operation at the moment. We are trying to build him up as best we can. Yesterday he had his first bath (not particularly appreciated) and I'm happy to say the feathers on his chest are starting to grow back.
I guess the point of this post is to say that alot of people view pigeons as vermin, flying rats but in fact they are beautiful, very intelligent birds. Wilfred lights up every day without even trying, just spending time with him makes me smile without fail because he is such a little fighter. He has taught me a valuable lesson - never give up!
In November I usually take part in Nanowrimo. This year I was working on edits, coursework and a pigeon care booklet so I didn't get chance to fully commit but there are a number of reasons why Nanorwrimo is an excellent way to spend November:
1. It forces you to write. There is a set word target so you can't just sit around with a blank page in front of you - there are only 30 days and nearly 2000 words a day are required.
2. It doesn't need to go anywhere. Whatever you write during Nanowrimo can be saved to your hard drive, it doesn't have to be a masterpiece - it can just be an extreme exercise class for your imagination.
3. Lots of writers support each other and remain in touch throughout Nanowrimo so it makes writing far less solitary. I remember spending early mornings sat in Starbucks with Lorrie Porter - she did less writing and more talking but still churned out an impressive word count and got exactly where she wanted to be.
4. It doesn't matter if you fail. There are no prizes (apart from a web banner) for completion so even if you could managed 10,000 words its still an accomplishment to be proud of.
5. It's like a little writer's holiday. You focus on something new and let everything else go on the backburner for a while. It's therapy.
I'm sure people can think of dozens more reasons why Nanowrimo is an excellent concept. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try writing a book but knows that they'll probably type the first chapter and then give up (Samantha Williams).
The last couple of weeks have probably been some of the strangest, so full of highs and lows I have been exhausted.
I am about start a rewrite on my novel Sanctuary. With some help from the amazing Kirsty at DGA I think I've finally worked out what I need to do and have put together his storyboard. It helps to have everything quite visual for me otherwise I get lost in the action and forget that not everyone can see what's going on in my head. I have plotted the novel out, trying to stop it being quite as frenetic and now I'm excited to start working on it again. You really do have to love a novel to keep working on it so never write something just because you think it might be a bestseller - write it because the story really means something to you.
On Saturday I found a pigeon in the centre of Bolton. It was lying on the floor barely alive. People walked by, some stopped for a look before moving on. I was with Samantha and we decided we were going to take it home and get it better. I picked it up and we started to walk back to the car. My hands were full with the pigeon so some random man decided to take advantage of the fact and assaulted me. It happened so fast that at first I just stood there, clutching this pigeon and trying to work out what to do next. Samantha arrived at my side wondering why I was just standing there. We reported it to the Police and as each day has passed it has all become a little blurred around the edges.
An assault isn't funny, but I remember sitting in the Police Station and being asked what I was wearing when it happened. As I described my attire from the day I realised that whoever had got a kick out of what happened had to be seriously in need of mental evaluation. I was wearing blue jeans, sneakers and a huge grey woolly jumper with a black dog on the front. I'd been swimming the night before so my hair was pinned up and fluffy. I was clutching a sick pigeon that was covered in its own poop.
Sadly the pigeon died! We took it to a bird sanctuary who basically let us down and instread of treating him euthanised him instead. So, if you find a sick pigeon in the North West drop me a line because I am officially now running my own pigeon rescue. I'm currently working with a Pigeon Charity to put together a downloadable booklet so people know what to look for in sick pigeons and what treatments they can use to look after them. A lot of people still class pigeons as vermin so they often put to sleep by sanctuaries or vets. If you do have to take a pigeon to the vet or to a sanctuary check their 'kill policy' first.
And I know the photo above is not me and the pigeon! This is me at my course last night handling a Death Head Cockroach. I also handled a python, a terrapin, a blue tongued skenk and the cutest guinea pig in the world.
On Friday I temporarily adopted a pet mouse. When I first saw his picture on the internet I was struck by how little he had. Heathcliff's cage is full of distractions, toys and things to entertain him when I'm not there. Rodents are intelligent and easily bored so making sure that when you aren't around to entertain them they can entertain themselves is really important. The mouse literally had very little. He had a wooden bridge, a bowl of food, water and half a bed with a piece of tissue in it.
So, I contacted the previous owner and said I'd take him, even though that meant I had to pay for the privilege of taking on a pet they didn't even want anymore. A good friend of mine agreed to have him as her children were asking for a pet and I knew she'd make sure he had a lovely new life.
On Friday I met the previous owners at the train station to collect him. I was handed a cage with a few bits and pieces stacked in the corner. "I've put him in a take-away box to transport him" I was told. I looked again. Right in the corner of the cage was the tiniest, flattest box I had ever seen in my life. It wasn't a takeaway box like you're probably imagining, it was probably just an inch high.
My sister was with me and we hurried to the car park, both of us certain that he must be dead after being in that box for well over an hour. When we got to the car I sent Sam off to pay for the ticket so she didn't have to see, I was convinced I'd open the box and find out I'd paid for a broken cage and a dead mouse.
The second I peeled back the corner of the box he jumped out like he was fleeing for his life. He ran around the cage madly, searching for food. We gave him some of his mouse food but had no water with us, assuming he'd have had some for the journey. It had been raining as we carried the cage through the streets and the mouse was so thirsty that he licked the drops of rainwater from the plastic cage.
I get angry when I read stories in the papers about people mistreating animals, but what a lot of people seem to forget is that ignorance is just as bad as neglect. People can walk into a pet shop and buy a pet mouse or hamster without any information or guidance on how to look after one, most people don't bother to buy a book or do any research.
One day would like to open my own rehoming centre and make a real difference like I hope I have to the mouse. He now has so many toys; a wheel which he loves to run in and a ball so he can chase around the carpet. He has cardboard tubes to play in and a big nesting box which he loves curling up in and going to sleep. Soon he will get something even more important - a family who loves him.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a writer friend about what we would do if the whole writing thing never took off. It's not always easy to keep the faith so in those moments of self-doubt we create our back-up plans.
I decided that I would be an animal super-hero. It seemed quite logical to me at the time. I read the news everyday and hear about all the horrible things people do to animals and it has to stop. Animals need a super hero, someone to hear when they're in pain and go to their rescue.
Okay - so realistically that's not going to happen - but I have signed on to an Animal Care Course. It's only a small step towards getting my cape but every step counts.
I am currently half-way through the first proper draft of my new novel and I fracture my finger! I manage to convince myself that as my typing speed is approximately 110 words per minute then this injury should only slow me down to an above average typing speed of around 80wpm. Erm, shame it didn't work out quite that way.
I spent an hour in Starbucks this morning trying to type sentences that actually made sense. Typing with two fingers strapped together is sort of like running with your legs tied together. My fingers keep falling over each other.
My fractured finger was a good excuse to do pretty much nothing all weekend. I lay in bed watching DVDs, walked the dogs, ate way too much food that wasn't good for me and felt sorry for myself because I hadn't managed the swimming I'd planned for Friday.
I am one of those people who never seem to find comedies funny. There have been a couple of exceptions - Zoolander and Dodgeball being among them, but on the whole they are either too stupid to be funny or they just fail miserably. The Internship didn't disappoint me.
I wasn't in the mood for much laughter when I made it to the cinema. I thought I was probably going to lose 2 hours of my life I'd never get back but at times it actually made me cry with laughter.
My sister may never want to see the film again after being forced to listen to me re-enacting the scene where Vince Vaughn tries to come up with a new app idea. His constant use of the phrase 'on the line' instead of online was hilarious.
The sad thing about The Internship is that it made me feel old! The good thing was that it reminded me that age doesn't really matter. With no computer training whatsoever my sister went back to University and got a First in Graphic Design. Life is about the risks we take and whether or not we can laugh at ourselves. Success can only come if you try and so if a trivial comedy taught me anything it was that the only failure is not taking that risk!
For me I never seem to be short of inspiration. I'm one of those people who have this constant magnet attached to them, sucking in everything I come across in case I can use it later.
Recently I was contacted on Twitter by a lovely writer who had seen a photo of my dog Darcy on-line. The photo had inspired her to put a little dog in her Detective novel. I was thrilled that someone was going to imortalise Darcy!
Sometimes when I'm looking for inspiration for a character I will just pick an attribute and google images it. The plethora of pictures that respond to my call are then carefully filtered through and inevitably there will be something I can use. I might even recall seeing an actor in a film who might fit the character I'm creating, then I can look at hundreds of images of them and find the right one.
It is actually amazing how much food there is for our creativity out there.
At the moment I'm in a sort of weird writer's limbo. I used to get in this when I'd finished working on one manuscript and was thinking about the next, now it is tied mainly to that period of waiting for some kind of response on your work.
I'm not the kind of person who can not write! I've tried to take a break, to concentrate on something else like reading a book but stories keep coming to me and it would be a crime not to do something about them.
Last night I bought one of my favourite pads of paper - and despite already being a short way through a new draft - I decided to make some book notes. One of my absolutely favourite parts of writing is getting to know my characters, making them all three dimensional and turning myself into a crazy person who sees imaginary people. I love working out what they listen to on their ipod, the kind of phrases they repeat without even realising it. I love finding out what their favourite drink is or the movie they wish they'd never watched. The thing about characters is that they become real people and their story is exactly that - THEIR STORY - not yours anymore.
At the moment I'm learning about someone called Mercy Taylor. I've been writing some notes, finding some images and generally asking her lots of questions in my head. I want her to be a strong lead character for my novel, someone who can show me her story without waiting for me to point the way.
So far the plan is working. Mercy Taylor is becoming flesh and blood. She has told me all her secrets, and the things she is most embarrassed about.
As a writer we have to accept that the time when we're not writing is usually the time when we're gathering informtation to use in a book. We never aren't writers. Even at a Bon Jovi concert on Saturday I was hit with the idea of a book and just had to keep making notes.
On Saturday I went to the British Museum to see the Pompeii Exhibition. I haven't been in about six years, I don't know why. After watching a television programme on Pompeii I decided to bite the bullet and book some tickets.
I think its easy to forget how huge the Museum is. We stayed for about five hours (90 minutes in the Pompeii exhibition) and still hadn't managed to see everything.
The exhibition itself was well worth a visit (but on a quieter day than Saturday). There was a very naughty statue in one of the rooms that might need censoring around small children but apart from that it would be an amazing family day out.
Having an obsession with Alexander the Great I was a little bit disappointed with the room named after him, and we couldn't get anywhere near the Ancient Egyptian exhibitions.
Note to self - pick a quieter day next time!