Those Were The Days My Friend …

Groping my way in the darkness towards the alarm this morning, sliding into the shower vaguely conscious and casually cladding myself in garments that mean I appear at least somewhat respectable from the waist up to my online students, I remember other January mornings of other Spring terms – and however undesirable our particular current conditions are, I assure you I’ve had far more unpleasant starts to the new year! Take the Spring term – an inappropriate name for a stretch of some 3 months spent mostly freezing and chipping ice from windscreens – of 1978. Most of you probably...

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My Unwritten Retrospective Diary of 2020 …

I don’t write a diary. It seems to me that if life is going spectacularly well, there is no time nor point in transcribing that happiness to paper. And if life is bleak – well, who wants to squander time in morose self-obsession that, read later, will seem simply that. So no diary for 2020. But if I had written one it might well read something like this … JANUARY – something very vague and easily dismissed on the news about some virus in a remote city in China – 9 dead, evidently, how awful. FEBRUARY – at Athens airport....

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So Where Were You When …

As a Capricorn, I embrace the idea of the goat’s slow, steady progress up the mountain and although the zodiac sign insists on a sea goat, a mythological creature, I prefer to identify with the mountain goat – the kri-kri – only found these days on the island of Crete. I am never the leader of the herd, always the one catching up after everyone else has reached the tape. Us Capricorns are renowned as late starters, but our finish is worth waiting for – however long it has taken us to climb. So it tends to be with films....

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The Contents of Writers’ Handbags …

How much can you tell about a person from the way she writes? (and I am limiting myself to the feminine gender for the sake of this blog – however biased and partial that might seem!) The other day I was re-reading one of Penelope Lively’s wonderful novels. I love them all and have read all of them numerous times – initially, of course, for their stories, but in more recent years to see quite how she does it. They are relatively short. Not a word is wasted, nothing surplus to requirements as it were. No fussy unnecessary adverbs or...

WELCOME TO MY NEW LOOK WEBSITE!

It’s been a while – I am sure your lives have been rolling along absolutely fine – lockdowns permitting – without my weekly or fortnightly musings on matters vaguely writerly or readerly – but a lot has been happening behind the scenes and now I am able to blog again on my newly designed website and introduce you to a few new features. For a start, there’s my splendid logo revealed today for the very first time! Hope you like it. Then, if you take a tour around the new website, you will see that in future, readers will be...

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OUT OF THE STORM – a piece of flash fiction

A piece of flash fiction I wrote a while ago, experimenting with 500 word length – it seems appropriate for recent weather conditions! Somewhere, not too distant, a door bangs.  Stable, barn or shed, the dull and comfortable thud of wood against wood. Rose moves to the window, stares into the darkness, presses her face to the cold pane to see shapes.  Objects.  A figure.   But the night is too dense, moonless, stars entirely obscured by blankets of clotted cloud.  Besides, there are no cars.  No sign of human life out there where, on such a night, even the moles...

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THE PERILS OF THESE DASTARDLY FACE MASKS …

Who would have thought? Of all the subjects I imagined I could write about when I first embarked on writing a blog, face masks were not exactly at the forefront of my mind. But like those various other words and phrases that have entered our  common  day to day usage this year – think furlough, social distance, zoom calls, test and trace – we live in strange times – which has become a new common phrase in its own right. So face masks are now our daily friends – or rather our fiendish, obligatory companions. And for all the undoubted wisdom...

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MAKING THEM REAL …

Characters – the essential ingredients in any novelist’s store cupboard. In fact, for novels that are character rather than plot driven, these people form the foundation and structure of the whole business. For me, it’s where it all starts. Not with a high speed, complex and action driven scenario that will propel the thing from the first page through to the last. Not at all. My novels always start with an idea for a character. And then another and another intrude until, rather like gathering a host of admirable and fascinating friends together, something has to happen. They can’t all...

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A CELEBRATION OF LIBRARIES

This week, as most book lovers and avid readers will know, is LIBRARIES WEEK, and a chance to celebrate our wonderful, much-loved and treasured libraries that for many of us have been an essential part of our entire lives. In fact, it often feels as if libraries have been more formative and vital to me than any other national institution. And I am sure many other readers feel the same. My earliest memory of The Library, though, is before I could even read and was no doubt still in a pushchair. I remember my mother visiting the Boots Lending Library...

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