Drawing Breath at the National Trust Her voice carries. No full stops she is all conjunctions: ‘but’ and ‘so’ and ‘yet’ and ‘and’. Sixty-five years of catching up to do chasing herself through unpunctuated sentences. And then the crows come to pick at crumbs from the cheese scone taken an age to eat, minor mouthfuls… Read More Drawing Breath at the National Trust
Thirteen months ago I stepped off the edge of a cliff. In my post “The Daunting Prospect of Reinvention” I described how I was about to leave my most recent job – well paid, professional work – and embark on what had been loosely termed ‘the glide path to retirement’. It was, I told myself… Read More Brave new world?
I suspect just about everyone who attends a Writers’ retreat uncovers a nugget of some kind. Often these priceless finds will be unearthed through informal interaction with other attendees, conversations over dinner, sharing writing experiences – or even experiences of life. At my first retreat four years ago (at Garsdale Retreat in North Yorkshire), my… Read More Writing Retreats: panning for gold…
The first time I enrolled on a writing retreat I ended up getting the inspiration for – and writing the initial short story of – my collection “Degrees of Separation“. Next week I am enthusiastically anticipating my second retreat and hope for a similarly productive outcome! Once more I go into the week with questions… Read More Writing Retreat – mk. 2
When a new novel is published rarely does it polarise opinion as much as Kasuo Ishiguro’s “The Unconsoled”. For many it was a masterpiece, unlike anything else ever written – for others it was simply not very good and roundly vilified. There seemed to be no middle ground. My own reaction when I started to… Read More “The Unconsoled”
Having read positive reviews of Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend’, when I saw her more recent “The Lying Life of Adults” in the bookshop I didn’t hesitate to buy it – it was, I was told, also ‘astonishing’, ‘irresistible’, ‘intense’. Well, I’m afraid the word that kept popping into my head was ‘dull’. More than… Read More “The Lying Life of Adults”
Since my original post (appended below) I have now completed 12 stages of my journey since ‘leaving’ Land’s End, cycling some 330km. In a virtual sense, I have now reached Cheddar. Nearly out of the West Country! I have decided to cycle the length of the UK – Land’s End to John o’Groats – on… Read More Sound body, sound mind – an update
I have always enjoyed reading my work aloud ever since my first experience of doing so when I was in my early twenties. Historically, being able to read to an audience usually requires an ‘event’ of some kind – such as a book festival – and then an invitation to do so. One of things… Read More Always happy to read
Yesterday evening I attended the marque event of Ripon’s fourth Poetry Festival, a reading by the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage. Being slightly ambivalent to Armitage’s work, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Without any introduction, Armitage started by reading “Thank you for waiting” – and immediately had the audience in fits of laughter. The… Read More Watching Simon Armitage read…
Although it was not that long ago I reflected on the challenge of having ‘too much free time’ to work on literary projects (see my ‘dreams‘ post), it has been a while since I offered any kind of update on what I’m actually writing. It’s odd how your perspective can change week-to-week; how one day… Read More A quick look in the rear-view mirror…
…and nothing to do with writing! We have just embarked on a crusade to rescue an ailing allotment. In time-honoured fashion, we are trying to keep a weekly photographic log of our progress. You can see full photos of the challenge we are faced with – and our progress – here. In places the weeds,… Read More Another new project…
Simon’s Armitage’s collection “Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic” is something of a smorgasbord in terms of theme, style, even seriousness. It could easily offer ‘something for everybody’, as the saying goes. What struck me most of all was a sense that I wasn’t reading poetry as much as reviewing ‘product’. Everything in this collection was commissioned,… Read More “Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic”
Andrew O’Hagan’s “Mayflies” is unrelenting. During the first half of the book where we see a group of Scottish lads on ‘the lash’ in Manchester, he immerses us in their over-the-top hedonistic experience of drink, drugs and music without giving us a chance to come up for air. Then, in the second half of the… Read More “Mayflies”
I’m currently reading Simon Armitage’s Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic and I came across this: each new poem never anything less than a written plea for the next. from “Émigré” This is, of course, spot on. For those of us blessed – or plagued (you choose!) – with the compulsion to write, there is always this… Read More A written plea for the next…
If you’re a parent and a driver, the chances are the title of this post will resonate. Remember those long journeys – and probably not-so-long ones – when the chant from the kids in the back at some stage invariably migrated to “Are we there yet?”… Journeys of this nature – from A to B,… Read More Are we there yet?
I have decided to cycle the length of the UK – Land’s End to John o’Groats – on my exercise bike. Over 1,500 km split across 57 ‘stages’. Okay, so there are no uphills – but there are no downhills either! It seemed like a good idea: keep fit, have a challenge to aim for,… Read More Sound body, sound mind..?
Bernadine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other” is – quite simply – a triumph. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to read it. Perhaps I was put-off by its 450 pages, or the blurb, or the cover – the last two of these suggesting that somehow it wasn’t going to be ‘my… Read More “Girl, Woman, Other”
Monday next week will be something of a landmark day. And for all sorts of reasons. Most importantly perhaps, it begins the university journey of one of my children: their first full week away from home. I am, of course, both proud and jealous! Simultaneously, our youngest has started on their journey into adulthood via… Read More Don’t fear dreams – worry about them coming true…
It seems lots of people are deserting WordPress for Substack, lured by the notion of creating ‘newsletters’ that people will pay to receive. That and knowing they’ll be rubbing virtual shoulders with famous names and literary goliaths – and the fact that Substack is currently ‘free’. So is it a good move? It’s tempting, of… Read More Substack: Nirvana or the Emperor’s New Clothes?
It was partly because I liked Richard Powers’ “The Overstory” so much that I tried as hard as I could to get through “Galatea 2.2” – but I simply couldn’t finish it, and gave up about a third of the way through. It has been a while since I last had to admit defeat like… Read More “Galatea 2.2”