GoFundMe – Get us to New Zealand

This site has been lying dormant for some time, as I have been insanely busy.

The reasons why, and the reason why I’m posting now, are both intrinsically bound up in this GoFundMe page:


Please click to read more for the details.

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CSSB: Cream Linen Jacket

Welcome back to CSSB and this week’s bargain is a brilliant one, a fantastic cream linen jacket from Marks and Spencers.

What makes this one particularly special is that it was bought in a charity shop, but it still had the original tags on!  I love finding bargains like this, things that people have given away without even wearing them once. It’s as good as finding them in the original shop, but you only pay a fraction of the price.

I love wearing jackets, but a linen jacket has been something I been looking for since forever. I have a lovely white dress with a red print flower pattern which would look great for business meetings if only I could pair it up with the right jacket and this one looks fabulous.

2016-08-09 21.40.59

BRAND: Marks and Spencers

PRICE: £4.99

(Original Tag Price: £35)


I love the cut of this jacket. The long lapels, the cluster of little buttons at the front and the curved edges at the bottom of the panels all make it look like a really elegant piece.  I love the lining too – understated but with a touch of personality with the discreet diamond pattern.

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As well as the white dress, I can see this becoming a really versatile piece alongside a pair of white linen-mix trousers that I picked up from Matalan last summer in their sale. They didn’t fit comfortably then, but one year on and a little weight lost and they sit beautifully on my hips. I look forward to trying these out together.

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CSSB: Brown Leather Bag and Boots

My last pair of brown leather boots died a death some time ago, and I’ve never found a brown leather bag that I liked, but both have now waltzed into my wardrobe and turned out to be a complete match. And the best part? They were a combined cost of £3! Thank you charity shops.

I’ve had the boots for a while. Turns out the best time to go shopping for boots in Charity Shops is in the middle of summer, as that’s when they clear out their winter shoe stocks for £1 per pair. I couldn’t believe it when I saw these in the box. I mean, look at them!


I have no idea what brand these are, but for this sort of quality I don’t really care. The lining is beautiful and there’s barely a mark on them. The grips are in great condition and they fit like a glove.

I love wearing long boots with calf length skirts. It’s definitely one of my favourite looks – so elegant and swishy. So next on my list was a brown leather handbag to go with them.

I don’t DO small handbags. I carry a lot of stuff around with me. Purse, keys, phone, pencil case, notepad, medicines, spare carrier bags, diary, glasses case, makeup bag, hairbrush… I don’t travel light. Once I leave the house I am generally gone for several hours, sometimes to a mixture of jobs and appointments. So I need a decent size and well made beast of a bag to carry all my stuff.

So I was delighted to find this one in a local charity shop last week:


Love that pattern with the mix of browns! Anything like this is great for me, as it will match more than one outfit. The dark brown matches the boots, but I can mix it up with shades of peach, tangerine, cream, beige… all sorts of goodies.

DSC_0004[1]The label on the bag is Dils of London (makers and stockists of Jazzy Bags) who are so big and important that you have to register just to see their catalogue and they don’t accept orders for less than £100.

And I had it for … £2.

Go on. Say it. I’m a jammy so-and-so.

So, next on my list of things to look for is a good quality dark brown winter/autumn coat (wool or wool mix) and a long (calf length) brown or tweed/check style skirt. Then I will be all kitted out for the end of summer.

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Back in the saddle…

It’s time to get back on the horse and back in the saddle. This blog needs to get the show on the road again.

I know things have been quiet around here. In all honesty, 2016 has been a depressing year so far. By February I realised that I was going to have an ongoing and ever increasing list of obituaries to write. So instead, I decided it was more mentally healthy to take a break from blogging.

In general, my life has been spectacularly busy this year, and it’s not a surprise that this place has been gathering dust. Big plans are in the offing which I’m not talking about in public yet. I’ve consistently had upwards of five private tuition students at any given time for the last two years.I’ve made excellent progress in my day job too. On the home front there have been big changes as well, with Mr Shandy giving up work for at least this year to give him time to focus on improving his health.

Picking my priorities was a tough exercise. Napowrimo was an early victim. As was this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week call for submissions. I simply didn’t have the time, energy or drive to publicise it and keep things updated as much as during the previous year. My writing submissions ground to a halt for some time, and I took a long break from Twitter, needing to totally rethink my social networking practices.

So now, eight months later, I’m feeling relaxed, refreshed, and I have a fantastic catalogue of good ideas to get things up and running again.

CSSB will be starting up again, with a regular Sunday Style feature. As always, we are open for guest posts. Send me your bargains, recommendations and fashion victories! We wants them precioussss…

I’m also going to run a new feature called ‘Feminist Friday’. Once a week, there will be a published rant about whichever feminist issue gets my goat. Again, contributions are most welcome. If you’re upset and cross and annoyed about something that’s getting on your tits, I want to hear about it. Articles from WOC, the LGBT community and particularly the Trans* communities would be especially welcome.

The usual Shandy Media Club, Shandy Kitchen and Song of the Week categories remain open for submissions too, as well as the general articles section. Those of you who sent things in while the blog was on hiatus, you’ll be seeing them online soon. For more information on all of these submission categories, take a look at the submission page for the site.

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“I want to speak now”

In an episode of my favourite show, The West Wing, President Bartlett wasted a whole year of his administration staying ‘safe’.

And then he realised that for some issues, being safe wasn’t enough. And in a conversation with Leo, his chief of staff, he said:

“This is more important than re-election. I want to speak now.” 

Standing here today, looking at some of the issues I have largely remained silent on, I feel the same.

This is more important thank keeping the peace of people I don’t like, don’t see and don’t respect. I want to speak now. And I’m going to. 

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Poetry slams do nothing to help the art form survive   

Poetry slams do nothing to help the art form survive   

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A Rest Can Be Better Than A Change

A break has absolutely done me the power of good.

I missed one or two deadlines which was an utter shame, and my absolute apologies to the editors who were waiting for stuff from me. All I can say is that I’m a lot more with it when I’m not adjusting to a double dose of tablets which act as sedatives. I can and will do better. I promise.

I can cautiously say that I am back in action now, however, and will be catching up with my reviews, rants, recipes and poems over the coming month or so. Various Big Important Things over in the real world realm have now been taken care of and there’s a bit more space free in my brain for writing. For the last while, I’ve not been fit for anything other than surviving my working day and then giggling at Dr Cox and co while watching my husband’s collection of Scrubs DVDs. The fog is now beginning to clear though and I can see the road forward again.

A couple of rejections have come in for various submissions,  which is always a bit disheartening at first glance, but after a second read through with both eyes they’re actually quite encouraging and positive about my work, which has bucked my confidence up a bit. Not least because they’re about different genres of my writing. I wrote a brand new short story yesterday, which will need a bit of spit and polish, but at least I’m actually writing again and actively looking for new places to submit to. I’m getting my act together a bit more with promoting the Facebook page and dipping my toe back into Twitter and so forth.

Writing isn’t something you give up on, if you are truly passionate about it. It’s something you CAN’T give up on. You might take long breaks and need some occasional time off, which is certainly something that I need from time to time, but I have found yet again that now I am getting my strength back, I am ready to get back to it. Itching to do so, in fact. And enthusiasm on the part of the creator is an excellent spice for any work of art.

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Overdone it. Time for a Rethink.

So I’m back from a two week holiday away with my husband and the pusses. Sometimes you need to take a break from something in order to realise how much its taking out of you. This has absolutely been the case with me and my recent splurge of writing efforts.

I love to write and part of my problem (which is also part of my blessing) is that I get inspired by a hundred things a day. By movies and TV. By books. By advertisements. By current feminist debates. By the current developments in lifelong learning. By cooking and food and recipes. By the natural world around me. By the people I know and the choices they make and what they are doing with their lives. I get inspired by everything and sometimes it is overwhelming.

Before I took my break, I had a hefty list of writing commitments.

* I wrote blogs about cookery, poetry, reviews of media and fashion.

* I also wrote an irregular blog about anything which took my fancy over on Tumblr.

* I follow 500 accounts on twitter, I wrote and shared tweets, including #vss.

* I wrote articles about education, mental health and writing, some for publication and some for my own interest.

* I wrote short stories for submission to magazines and competitions, which was a new direction for me.

* I also had new ideas for novels at a rate of one per week

* I was developing an idea about a teaching text books and stories about my experiences as a tutor.

Away from writing I had a whole host of other commitments too. These included:

* Working a full time job, 9-5, teaching adults across the North West of England

* Privately tutoring several people a week in the evenings and at weekends

* Acting as an editor/reviewer of my husband’s writing

* Taking care of my husband and kitties

* Taking the lead on housework

* Completing my own CPD research for my job

* Working on craft work projects such as knitting and sewing

* Reading books in preparation for writing reviews

In the middle of all of this, I also had a medication review and had my dose doubled, which acted as a powerful sedative. Oh, and on top of THAT I was getting ready to go on an extended holiday! It turned out to be more than I could handle while keeping my own health together.

Something had to give and I decided to let it be the writing rather than myself. Coming back now I’m ready to start thinking about picking up the pieces and looking for a way forwards. I don’t want to drop any of my projects, but I need to take a step back and think about how to organise them a bit more effectively without running myself into the ground.

My husband’s previous therapist told him that an avalanche of ideas was the sign of a genuinely creative mind, and this resonates with me very strongly. I don’t love any of my creative foci the less for taking a break from them now and then. I tend to come back stronger.

I learned from Champagne Style on a Shandy Budget that writing blog posts on a daily basis was only sustainable over a short period of time. In the first flush of creativity when I had a wardrobe full of clothes and a drawer set full of products to talk about, this was more than easy to do. However, as my supplies ran dry and my self esteem took a battering through feeling tired and ill, it became very difficult to write with any authority about how to be stylish or look good at all. In order to maintain my creative output, I clearly need to take several things into account, including the following:

* I don’t write well on a schedule. My anxiety, when it spikes, causes me to shut down when faced with deadlines which I don’t feel I can meet. Writing on this sort of schedule stifles my creativity and makes me feel guilty for focusing my efforts in a different direction.

* I need to be able to switch between subjects according to what grabs my attention. I write my best and most passionate articles when seized by the heat of the moment and I need to allow myself the freedom to respond to those inspirations without shutting them down in negativity.

* I clearly needed a central home for my writing endeavors and this is now in effect with the launch and existence of Project Shandy. This will give me one thing to focus on rather than the spread out efforts across the web.

* I need to accept that writing anything is better than writing nothing and not beat myself up for not meeting ‘targets’ which I hold myself accountable to and nobody else.

* I need to have patience and wait until my current round of submissions have been responded to, either positively or negatively, before submitting anything else. I need to have a plan and a list of potentially interested parties for different projects and work on taking second passes and editing my work  before submitting it in a tidal wave of enthusiasm.

I’ve been a lucky new writer, I’ve experienced a small but significant amount of success and managed to get the attention of some influential people, including agents, magazines, publications, other writers, journalists, presses and publishers. I need to make sure I steady myself and don’t burn out that goodwill.

For me, writing isn’t something I’ll ever ‘retire’ from and there isn’t a deadline in place past which I won’t consider trying for publication and success. This is the long haul for me, and while yes I’ve put a lot of effort into new ideas recently and received something of a rush of recognition in a short space of time, I don’t want to drain myself dry.

My impetus to pull all of this effort together came from a rather dark place. There’s nothing like a good old fashioned spurt of jealousy and bitterness to make you pull your finger out and show the world what you’re capable of, lest you find yourself being viewed as lesser than someone you personally consider beneath you. My moment of ‘why can’t I have that’ spurred me forwards into ‘why aren’t I DOING that?’ and then suddenly I was, and it has felt like coming home. I have no intention of leaving either. I just need to rearrange the furniture a bit so that I can get a bit more comfortable in here.

So… let’s back up a bit. Put the house in order and mend the stairs. Give the gate a new coat of colour and work on walking forwards one step at a time. Running comes later. As does flying. I’m in no rush. If you hear less from me for a little while, it’s not because I’ve run out of things to say. It’s just because I’m picking the best words and getting them pinned down in the right order first. Which is what every writer should aim for.

Mrs Shandy

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What I Learned From Cult TV – Fox Spirit Books

Absolutely delighted to introduce my essay for the Fox Spirit Books on the theme of What I Learned From Cult TV. For today this is on the front page at www.foxspirit.co.uk but you can also access to permalink here.

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