Friday, 29 January 2010

Dreams Go By

It is often said that 'fishing floats catch more anglers than fish." I know this is true because I have a lot of fishing friends who buy a new float every time they go into a tackle shop. I'm glad to say that I've never fallen prey to this addiction because I've always made my own. However, I now find myself with a problem. The main material of which I once had plenty, now seems to have become a rare commodity. Sarkandas reed is the stuff I'm talking about. It's great for making wagglers and I once bought a great bundle of it from my local tackle shop. The floats have lasted me for ages but some are looking a bit tired and the paint is flaking off. I thought it was time to make a few more for myself but I cannot find any sarkandas reed anywhere, not even on the Internet. For those who are interested in making their own floats, here is a sketch of how to make one of the wagglers that I've used successfully for many years.

More information and instructions on how to make one of these floats can be found in my book, Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales.
If you can get you hands on some sakandas reed it worth making a few because these floats are real winners. Perhaps you'll also let me know where I can get some.
Please feel free to download a sample of my book here.
Okay sorry if It seems that I've been neglecting you writers a bit but that is going to change. We will over the next few posts get down to the nitty gritty of becoming a writer. I will tell you about the pitfalls that can trap us all and where you can waste a lot of time.
Okay, so where does one start on that path to becoming a writer. You don't know who to send what to and how to present your work. You are probably also scared that people might laugh at what you've written. You may have already written loads of stuff but don't let anybody see it in case the reaction is not favourable and your cozy little bubble gets burst.
The only way out of this is to make a start and there is no better place than the letters column of a newspaper or magazine. Yes I know that a lot of you will think that writing letters is what sad old duffers do and you want to write bigger and better things.
Well all I can say is, 'we've all got to start somewhere.' Perhaps it's time to stop shilly shallying about and give it a bash. You can always make a start on your novel next week. The first thing to do is to check out the letters page in your newspapers and magazines and put the contact addresses into your e-mail contact address book. This is so that you don't have to waste time looking them up and typing them in every time you want to write a letter. Now you can knock something out very quickly and not only might you see your name in print you may also get paid or win a prize and that can't be bad can it? With every letter you write your confidence will grow and if there is one thing that will stand you in good stead in the writing business it's a barrow load of confidence.In my next post I'll give you a bit more information on how to make sure your letter writing efforts are successful.
In my last post I mentioned that I had always longed to take a Holiday on a canal boat but couldn't find a stretch of canal long enough without locks. I didn't want to be mauling lock gates after my heart attack and neither my wife or I fancied being in a deep lock with all that water cascading about the place.
I'd given up finding somewhere where when out of the blue came an e-mail from my son Gary. He'd been looking at my blog and after reading my plight told me about the Lancaster canal which offered 40 miles of lock free cruising. He also sent me a link to a narrow boat hire firm so all was looking good.
At that point I was a happy chappy, not only had my son sent me an e-mail, but he might have also fixed me up with the holiday of my dreams.
How foolish was I? we all know that life isn't that simple. I checked out the canal and it looked good but no matter how deep I searched I couldn't find more than 3 firms on that canal who hire out boats.
One didn't take pets.
One was fully booked for the month I wanted to go
The other didn't have boats that were small enough for just me and my wife. These things are expensive enough without paying for too many extra births. So once again I was thwarted and had even began a search for bits of canal with just a few locks, well that was until my wife sat down that very evening and saw an article in the local paper. It told about a woman who was on a boating holiday and was tragically killed when she fell off the back of the boat whilst negotiating a lock. Apparently she had been killed by the propellers and left her family who had watched the incident absolutly devestated. It must have been terrible and my sympathy goes out to them. Anyway my wife pointed it out to me and I knew then that any dreams I had of a canal holiday where locks were involved were over.
The late but great Harry Chapin wrote a brilliant song called, "Dreams go by" I recalled the words and realised I should have followed this particular dream when I was younger.
By the way if there is anybody out there with a narrowboat sitting somewhere along the side of the Lancaster Canal and they don't mind letting it out to a couple of careful, clean and tidy and old codgers, I would love to hear from them. I'll leave you with another picture of the canal at Tyrley Locks and I'll go and listen to Harry. Oh and if you are reading this blog Gary, thanks for trying.

Friday, 22 January 2010


Hi again,
Since I've been doing this blog, time has never gone so fast. If ever you get bored and can't find anything to do I suggest you start one of your own. I have never had a problem with boredom I'm constantly trying to find time to fit in everything work wise and squeezing in a little time for my hobbies is proving to be difficult. Having said that, I managed to do a sketch last week-end of a lock on the Shropshire Union canal. I like to put a few of my own illustrations into my books and this is going into my next one.

If you want more information on my first book, please click on the link below.
More information

Okay, time to get on with talking about writing and fishing.

I said at the end of my last post that I'd tell you how I got started in the freelance writing business. Well I suppose it was all down to needing a change. I spent over 30 years in a factory and so during the week I hardly saw any sunshine. This wasn't good especially as I liked to spend time in the countryside and to do a bit of fishing.
The job itself wasn't that bad and I climbed my way up the promotion ladder. I started on the production line but eventually worked my way up to the dizzy heights of being the production manager. I became one of the management team and often wondered how I came to be sitting in the boardroom once a week discussing business and strategy etc.

At that time I was responsible for over a £100,000 of output per week. It was at times quite exciting and my life was filled with a great big buzz and an equal amount of stress. The buzz was great, there is no greater satisfaction in this world than achieving ones goals. The fact that I managed a team of up to 200 people every week to hit our targets only served to heighten the sense of achievement. However, it wasn't all a case of back slapping and cries of didn't we do well, because sometimes circumstances prevailed that saw us fail our targets.

Another cloud also appeared on the horizon hailing the decline of manufacturing in the UK. Cheap imports were flooding in and the sword of redundancy was slashing its way through our factory on a regular basis. For several years I fought on through this situation but knew that it was only a matter of time and my number would eventually be pulled from the hat. I was so sure that my position in manufacturing was going to come to an end I asked myself a couple of questions.
Question 1: Did I want to stay in manufacturing? Answer: No.
Question 2: What else would I like to do? Honest Answer: I hadn't got a clue.

One thing I did realise was that I didn't want to go back into a factory. I also had this yearning to work for myself and be in charge of my own destiny. My career to date had always relied on other people and that isn't always a good thing. My biggest problem was that I didn't have any transferable skills. I had done a lot of courses during my climb up the promotion ladder and had loads of qualifications in manufacturing and even had letters after my name, but outside of manufacturing these were worth diddly squatt.

So I would have to start all over again, but doing what? I suppose this was when fate took a hand it just so happened that I saw an advert in a paper about becoming a writer and it rang a bell. It was one of those distance learning courses that you do from home and it sounded very professional. I also realised that I had dabbled with writing before, in fact I had started a couple of books and contributed twice to the factory magazine during the last few years. Anyway, while I pondering this move a redundancy situation presented itself to me and I took it. Signing up for the writing course seemed at the time like a sensible way forward because I could be doing that while I thought about other options.

I'd like to say at this point that this was a major turning point in my career and everything went like clockwork. Well I suppose it did for a bit, but when the chest pains I suffered one night turned into a heart attack it put the brakes on a bit.

Anyway, I did a stint in hospital and had stents put into my arteries and I went home to carry on with my studies. It was a blessing really because during that recovery period I couldn't do much more than sit in front of my computer. Eventually I finished the course and I felt better in myself although I knew then that I'd never be fully back to normal.

So I carried on with the writing and was soon looking at my name in print. I will go on and tell you about that in my next post.

I like canals, they are such peaceful places. I have had a dream for many years of holidaying on the canal. To take a narrow boat and while away the hours chugging from village to village. I'm sure our Yorkshire terrier Buzby, would enjoy it.

The only thing that puts me off are the locks. They look like hard work and I don't know if I'm physically capable of dealing with a day's worth of them. My wife wouldn't be able to cope with them either. I know the Norfolk Broads are lock free but I've been there and done it's a canal I want to sail on. I have even searched the Internet looking for areas of canal that don't have many locks, but as yet I haven't managed to find anything. If anybody can help with suggestions I'd be pleased to receive them. I just want a stretch where I can potter about for a week with a minimum number of locks.

Talking about canals, if I was to take a canal holiday it would have to be early in the year before match anglers begin to line the towpath. It is rare that I fish canals now. In my old age I prefer to sit at the side of some beautiful pool and let life slide past like a sigh.

I can remember the time when the canal was my second home. I fished matches on it most week-ends and practised down the cut on summer nights after work. I became pretty good on the canal especially in the art of gudgeon bashing. This was the main species in our bit of the Trent & Mersey and I learned how to catch them fast enough to win our local championship for two years in succession.

I liked the canals because they made match fishing fairer. Rivers and pools can be very peggy and the winner often comes from the best pegs. I always remember fishing a match on a pool during November. This bit of water was shallow at peg one and went deeper as you went along the bank to peg thirty. Anyway we had suffered a heavy frost on the night before the match so you know what happened to the fish. Yes, they all went up to the deep end, the angler on peg thirty had over twenty pounds of fish and the sucker on peg one caught nowt.

This scenario doesn't happen on canals because of their uniform depth. This can only mean that the skill of the angler comes to the fore and isn't that how it should be.
Yes, canals are great for fishing, but the boats don't half give me the jip especially when captain birdseye comes chugging past with his throttle wide open at 6am on a summer's morning.
I'll leave you now with a lovely photo I took of our local canal at Sandon, complete with a lovely boat.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Snow and Wasps

I had hoped that by the time it came to do this post that the weather would've improved. It did yesterday, a slow but steady thaw was taking place, but when I woke up this morning the dreaded white stuff had returned with a vengeance. It has covered everything again. Yesterday I saw the tarmac on the road outside our house for the first time this year, but now it looks like a Christmas cake again.
Our road like many others in the country hasn't been gritted and I'd probably stand as much of a chance of spotting a bittern as I would seeing a gritting truck.

It is at times like this that I feel grateful to be able to work from home. Going out to work everyday in conditions like this isn't much fun. I also feel sorry for the animals who just have to put up with it. Here is a photo of some sheep and a lonesome cow that I took recently, all I can say is roll on summer.

Have you ever gone fishing when you would have been better off staying in bed. You know it was raining all day yesterday and the river is going to be bursting its banks, but you can't turn over and go back to sleep because of one little thing or I should say person. Yes, your best fishing buddy is going to turn up as planned come hell or high water.
Going fishing with ones best mate is one of the things I like about fishing, that is all accept for when the weather is going to ruin the days sport. Common sense seems to go out of the window on days like these. I remember many a winter's morning, waiting outside my house hoping in vain that Tommy wouldn't turn up, but he always did. I can see him now getting out of his Triumph Spitfire, his face grinning at me with a moustache that he could've borrowed from somebody in the RAF.
"You ready for it then, Georgie boy," he'd ask enthusiastically.
"Yeah, I think so," I always replied. Well I was too much of a nice guy to burst his bubble.

Tommy was a nice guy too, always smiling and looking on the bright side. If you ever get the chance make sure you surround yourself with positive people. Those who always have a face like a broken fiddle will only drag you down.

I suppose that fishing in the cold weather has one good thing going for it and that is the lack of wasps. If there is one creature in this world that I truly hate it's Mr Woppy. What a waste of space, what was our creator thinking when he unleashed that terrible, stinging monster into the world. My dad used to crush them against the window with his thumb, not a pleasant sound but somehow it was strangely satisfying. Over the years I found my own way of dealing with the little horrors especially while I was fishing. There isn't space here, but I do say quite a bit about wasps and how to deal with them in my recently published book, Fishing:Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales.

More information about the book

If you are thinking about going fishing this week-end I'll wish you the best of luck because I think you're going to need it. I'll leave you with a photo of warmer times and how the weather should look when you are wetting a line.

In my last blog I talked about how wasting time is the writers biggest enemy. When writers boot up their computers to start writing they get caught up in lots of other activities which isn't good. So if you are going onto your computer to write, ignore everything else and start writing.

I said when I set out the aims for this blog, that I was going to show people how to get started as a freelance writer and that is what I'm going to do.But before I explain to you how to go about getting started it's worth considering if you think doing a course would be helpful to you or not. There are many out there to choose from and if you take on board the knowledge that they pass on, you will no doubt at some stage become a published writer.

One of the advantages of doing a course is the confidence that it gives the student. It takes away some of the fear of sending submission out into the big wide world.
But before you leap in and sign up for one of these courses please consider the other side of the coin.

These courses don't come cheap. They also take up time and you have to consider if you might not be better off just getting on with it. Following this blog will point you in the right direction and I will let you know which books have helped me along the way.

Now at this point you might be asking the vital question. Where do I start? That is a good question and one that is easily answered. I will tell you how I got started in this writing game in my next post.

At least with all this bad weather about I've been able to get on with writing my next book, so every cloud has a silvery lining.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Breaking The Ice

Our weather seems to be stuck in a very nasty rut at the moment. It's freezing outside and a blanket of snow is covering everything. Every now and again I peep through the window hoping a thaw might have set in so that I could take the dog for walk, but I know it isn't going to happen today and probably not tomorrow either.
At times like this I'm sure we can all be forgiven for repeating that often asked question, what happened to global warming?

I have posted a couple of photos on this blog to brighten it up a bit. Take a look at the one of the frozen lake, beautiful though it is, doesn't it make you want to shiver.

The worst part about this weather is the fact that it stops me from doing what I want to do. I also feel sorry for those people who get up early each morning to go to work in atrocious conditions. Scraping the ice off a car every morning isn't much fun especially when it's so cold that even after doing the outside your breath freezes on the inside of the windscreen. I've been there and done that for over thirty winters and count myself lucky that things have changed for me. Now I only have to make myself a nice cup of tea, climb the stairs to my study and switch the computer on. On that note, perhaps it's time to talk a little bit more about freelance writing.

I mentioned in my last blog that time wasting is the worst enemy of all writers. There are so many distractions to contend with. One of the main problems is that the software program we use to do our writing is on our personal computer. That shouldn't really matter, but what do you always do when you switch on the computer? Well, in keeping with the majority of computer users you probably check your e-mail account to see if you have any important messages. The problem is it doesn't end there because some of the e-mails need a reply. Then you check the news, the weather and then google all the things you have thought about googling since the last time you were logged on. The net result of all this activity is that you've achieved nothing and you are no closer to becoming a writer of any description.

If you want to push forward with a writing career and avoid the brass monkey weather next winter, you need to change your habits. If you are going onto the computer to do some writing do that first, you can look at your e-mails when you've finished. If you can't manage that then sit yourself down in a quiet corner with a good old-fashioned notepad and a pencil and get on with it. Lots of writers use this method and edit their work as they type it into the computer.

In my next post I'll make suggestions for getting started.

I've already mentioned that because I work from home I don't have to venture out in Arctic conditions to go to work.

What I also don't do is go fishing. It isn't that I'm completely nesh, it's because it seems to me to be a waste of time if your main objective is to catch fish. If however your reason for going out in horrible weather is motivated purely by the need to get out of the house for a bit of peace I can sympathise with that.

If we go back about twenty years the sort of weather we are having at the moment was common place. This is how it was every Winter. Our fish club's Christmas fur and feather match was always fished early in November because the canals were generally frozen over by the end of the month and would stay that way for most of December and January.

At that time I was also keen on match fishing and found myself roped into taking part in a winter league. This was a series of matches that must've been organised by the local tackle dealers to keep us fools fishing when we'd have been better off under the duvet. These were regular events that were fished on the canal and were for very hardy people. If Earnest Shackleton or Scott of the Antarctic had been anglers I'm sure they'd have enjoyed our Winter league.

The matches were always fished in horrible conditions and more often than not ice needed to be broken regardless of how thick it was. I can only remember one match being called off because it was too cold and that was because the match secretary couldn't make a hole in the ice even with a pick axe. If you are a fair weather angler that puts his rods away at the end of August you'll laugh when I tell you that most of the anglers broke the ice with a house brick tied to a piece of rope then they moaned when they didn't catch anything. One chap I know was so determined to make a good size hole in the ice that he always carried a full size axe with him. You can read more about him and his determination to fish on regardless of the conditions in my book Fishing:Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales.
More information about the book and free download
If you are venturing out to wet a line soon I wish you all the luck in the world, because anybody who goes fishing in this weather deserves it.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The aim of this blog

I'm sorry that this second blog has been a long time coming, but Christmas sort of got in the way. One of my New Year's resolutions is to make my updates more frequent in the future.

Speaking of Christmas, it's a funny time of the year because time seems to be on fast forward. When I worked in a factory I would spend the first three weeks of December wishing my life away just because I'd be having a weeks holiday at the end of the month. I'd daydream about all the nice things I was going to do, and all the hours I was going to spend blissfully engrossed in my hobbies. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that things never turn out the way I'd planned and if I got a couple of hours to endulge myself and live my own life I was lucky. The new year would dawn and it would be back to the grind stone with a smile painted on my face.

Talking of painting, I took up watercolours a few years ago after the kids had grown up and gone to conquer life. When Christmas came that year I managed to get a decent amount of time to myself and did a painting that I'm reasonable proud of.It is called "Birches" I'd love to know what you think about it?

Anyway Christmas is over once again and here we are about to start a new year and at last I'm going to tell you what this blog is all about.

Writing and Fishing.
There are thousands of people out there hoping to make easy money by becoming a writer, but there are nearly as many who are about to give up because they are failing to see results. I hate to use the over worn cliche, "been there and done that, " but it does say it all. When I started writing I knew nothing about the subject but now I've had loads of stuff published from letters and articles to short stories and my book about fishing. It wasn't all plain sailing though because I've wasted so much time I could sit down and blart if I think too much about it.

Anybody who has tried to make money from writing will tell you it isn't easy and only a fool would give up the day job first. I think the main message I will be trying to put over is the fact that speed and focus is vital if you want to be successful.
So many people get frustrated and give up. More often than not, this is because they lacked focus, they failed to home in on one area of writing or they wasted too much time trying to crack a market that either didn't suit their style or was just over saturated. Yes, I've been there and done it, I wasted about a year of my writing life in the process. Imagine that, writing for a whole year and havin nothing to show for it.

So in a nutshell that is what the writing part of this blog is going to be about. It should help you to recognise time wasting traps and allow you to see a clear way forward. During the course of these blogs I will also give away some free downloads of stuff that I've written. You can do what you want with these downloads, modify and submit them to your chosen market at your leisure or just read them and bin them. But what I'd really like in return is some of your feedback. I would like you to tell me and other followers of this blog what you think of the content. Mostly the downloads will be of material that failed to get published but I'm sure we'd all be interested in why.

To summarise,becoming a freelance writer is hard but money can be made by those who know what they are doing as long they apply themselves and work hard. If you follow this blog I hope to be able to give you some useful pointers.

Now I suppose those of you who are interested in fishing are pulling your hair out reading all this stuff about writing. Well don't despair because although writing might be the way I earn money, fishing is still one of my greatest pleasures and there will be lots of fishing content in future blogs. I will discuss some of the ideas mentioned in my book,"Fishing :learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales."

(More info)

I will also talk about some new topics some of which are included in my next angling book which hasn't as yet got a title.
I hope to get feedback from anglers who follow this blog especially those who have read the book.

May I wish you all a very prosperous New Year