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I’ve been thinking about skills lately for The Witch Ways, my new series of books. I’ve been working out what skills each of the Way sisters will have and as a consequence I’ve been assessing what my own skills might be and reliving the horror of all those terrible jobsearch terms like ‘transferable skills’ and ‘skillset’.

Skillset? Do you have one? Depends, I suppose, on your definition of skillset? I mean some might require an ability to pull off a recordbreaking amount of keepy uppys; others might treasure data projection or horse husbandry.

If you’re after coding and data analysis then I’m probably not your person (equal opportunities apply). I’m afraid that my skillset tends to have a more well, historical bent.

I could, if you like, and subject to the relevant planning permissions, help you with the construction of a wattle and daub dwelling. I can do the wattling bit and the daubing bit. I am a dab foot with a bucket of water and a pile of chalk chunks. This is a skill learnt from my time as a volunteer with the Education Team at Stonehenge.  As part of the training I also learnt to grind grain, make a Neolithic pitta and lay a fire.  The other skill I learnt was how to make rope out of reed and bramble stalks. This, I have to warn you is a seriously addictive skill. On one afternoon I managed to make enough cordage to tow a small barge.

I doubt these skills will feature on my CV anytime soon as no one really appreciates them in this particular timezone. I feel my skillset is only transferable within a timetravelling framework.

So, should I ever trip over and tumble down a wormhole I do have some usable skills. I imagine finding myself in a castle in this scenario, or possibly, a bit further back, a hill fort and I foresee that I will be able to fit in and be useful.

I can bake bread and cook food using raw ingredients and simple implements called pans and fire, so I am made for the kitchens and bakery in this castle. If pushed I could probably tell a tale or two by a crackling fire, oh, and I can knit. A bit. A lot actually, I tend to get carried away. That is how all the medieval knights ended up with all that chain mail. Big needles, later used for jousting.

You might have noticed that my time travel fantasies don’t run to a galaxy far far away. If I am catapulted forwards I will be lost. I can’t erect flat pack furniture. I can’t operate a satnav unless Brian Blessed is shouting instructions to me and I do not look good in one piece lycra jumpsuiting. I think the sound of a microwave pinging is the most dismal sound on earth.

In our household I am considered the impractical one, head in the clouds as I make stuff up for a living, hands in the clouds of flour as I bake stuff up for eating. I hold the opinion that I’m actually very practical; as an example; One of my husband’s colleagues had a ‘contact’ at a Scottish salmon fishery and said he’d bring us a lovely bit of salmon. When this ‘lovely bit of salmon’ arrived it was about a foot and a half in length and weighed 14 pounds.  Undaunted I scaled and gutted the beast with help from a library book and a set of Sabatier knives I had as a wedding present while my then infant son boinged up and down gleefully in his doorframe baby bouncer.

Today’s skills, the ones my offspring are so hot to trot about, are rather more ethereal than magic. Texting with your thumbs for example and the frightening fact that information is stored, like dreams, in clouds. Hackers aren’t anything to do with coppicing a wood, instead they are cyber wizards intent upon storming data strongholds. People create codes to make machines think but I warn you that what machines chiefly need is electricity.

So should an apocalypse occur ( I’m imagining a minor Ragnarok here, where Fenrir doesn’t actually eat the sun and kill Odin, rather he just runs around a bit and unplugs stuff. The lights go out, the power goes off, the internet is down) I will be in the back garden. I will be raking out my woodfired oven and checking the proving of my dough. While the bread bakes I’ll knit you a jumper from ivy tangles. See you there. Chain mail optional.

Crooked Daylight, the first in the Witch Ways series is out now.  Find out more

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‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge


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