Saturday 30 April 2016


Happy May Day! 
Today I started tidying up my workroom very, very slowly. I took down two overloaded cork-boards, collect all the postcards, pictures and Thank You For Visiting Our School cards together and put them into a filing cabinet drawer which was quite a squeeze. The drawer is full enough to need tidying too, but that’s for another day.  (nb. The noticeboard shown is not mine but has the same spirit about it. One day I will know how to prep photographs for blogposts! )

Then I unpinned the name badges and neck tags, collected them all together and dropped them in a tin. Then I try to find a place to put the tin.  
Oh, here’s a handy overcrowded shelf!  

 I wedge the tin in there, which is, in tidying terms, hardly better than nothing and definitely not Mari-Kondo-esque.

My really favourite method for tidying rooms home here is to take everything off to another room, sort it out and then put the good stuff back again, in an orderly way. A bit like an extended IT Crowd suggestion. However, this feat is not what I haven’t time for right now, or for this month or possibly during this whole summer. But those two notice-boards are now temptingly empty spaces for more stuff . I'm sure I can find some . . .

I’m partly in this clearing mood because I’m also getting my current, big Work-In-Progress cleaned out and clarified. This WIP is a long thing with many characters and a complicated plotline and I really need to be in the zone when I’m working on the text. If not, things get forgotten even if I’ve noted them down on scraps of paper already and pinned them to the two other noticeboards. Cryptic Notes, yes. Unrecognisable Notes, yes. Possibly still Useful Notes? Ah. 

I must not, however, complain because suddenly the wretched thing – or that’s how the WIP has often felt – has got going again. This is a good positive feeling although there is still a very huge and scary Big Final Section to go.  

Right now, the WIP feels more than a bit like Frankenstein’s Monster lurching awkwardly onwards with all the joins showing and bits in danger of falling off as it proceeds. 
Stomp, stomp, stomp into the mist.

Yesterday, with the rain, hail and snow blasting outside, I opted for a bout of book dreaming and came up with a few early reader book ideas. This process is so very different to writing fiction, being much more like like a “poetry” state of mind where you need to use an intense focus and a limited number of words. Not sure any ideas will come to anything, although I am quite fond of one rather surreal forty-word text. Fingers crossed, as ever.

Then, however, all the hours of screen work suddenly reminded my poor eyes that it was time to focus on a different activity - which prompted the sudden longing for clean and empty spaces - or noticeboards, which is where I began this post.

Onwards, even if in a circular fashion.

Have a great May Day weekend!

Sunday 24 April 2016


Thursday today: a peaceful day unpacking my “big books” and talk stuff and everything after yesterday’s school visit to ROSSETT ACRE PRIMARY SCHOOL. The day began with an assembly for all the KS1 & KS2 classes and followed on with story sessions for the EYFS & Key Stage One children, which were good fun. I hope the staff and children thought so too. Thanks, Rossett Acre, for inviting me in as part of your current “Let’s Get Reading” initiative. That’s my title – though it may also be an official title somewhere too. Encouraging more reading is a Very Good Thing, in my mind. Well chosen, Rossett Acre!

Midday meant the long playtime and as the sun was out yesterday, the children were galloping and playing out on the school field over lunchtime too. I imagine there have been far too many wet “indoor” days recently, which is not good for the growth and health of young things.

Or for older things, come to that! Today, as it’s sunny again, I’m away up to HARLOW CARR GARDENS to wander among the trees and spring flowers, and to see what the RHS has begun setting up for the summer. Nigel Dunnett, the designer for the Olympic Park, is now involved up there, helping with developing a masterplan, which could be interesting, although I wish my thoughts weren’t of gigantic plastic statuary. No, please, no! Let the garden be a garden, please! I have only observed the skyline of the park from a train so maybe this is an unfounded Kapoor-fret?

However, I’m wondering if I should be pacing through the other end of Harrogate, away to the east in the once-village of Bilton. I’ve just reached the end of COMMON GROUND by Rob Cowen, a “nature and landscape” writer. (There must surely be a neater category term for such a genre group?)  

Over a year, first as an unemployed journalist and then as an expectant father, he spent much time walking through a small area of “edge-land” just beyond Bilton, observing the animals and living creatures and musing on the history of this unclaimed but apparently protected “common ground”. 

Cowen writes both as himself - the observer, the witness -  and from the viewpoint of some of the living creatures inhabiting the area. I’m not a natural "natural landscape" reader, although I have read Macfarlane and similar authors so I felt, at first, that the text demanded the acceptance of a different pace and rhythm. Or was it that this was a familiar landscape, not the wildness of the Hebrides or mountains? 

Yet, after a while, I found I was welcoming the pages; by the end I thought that COMMON GROUND had been a valuable piece of reading. Cowen even manages to make some sense of the council-installed tarmac-surfaced cycle path that cuts across the very ground he’d been exploring. 

Besides, I’ve found that Cowen is talking at Harrogate Library in June, probably for the paperback publication, so I’m planning to go to hear what he has to say a year or two on from the writing of this book - especially with all the development planned around many of the edge-lands of the town.

Past noon now, as I write, so I’m off to spend some time with the daffodils.

Ps. Thursday's was a more than fine visit of discovery, followed by a busy Friday and a Manchester Saturday - which is why this post's only just appeared. Oops!

Tuesday 12 April 2016


Tuesday 12th April 2016.

Here I am again, behind on seat.

I had a wonderful time over Easter, which was full of dressing-up and happy smiles and confetti and good food and meeting nice and interesting people, followed by idle lazing, egg-hunting and walks in Wanstead Woods. Yes, Easter was blissful and good and such a joyful time after all the wedding preparations.

Then, getting home, we hit pause, as they say. We went down with A Bug. I have to say that I didn’t really care: to have had the wedding go merrily and without any hitches was more than enough for me.

However, the horrid cold laid us low. Worse, it filled the brain with thick mists of stupidity and the chest with nasty stuff. Groo!

Was I surprised? Not really. I have a half-belief in The London Miasma – an invisible airborne soup of bacteria and germs and suchlike - that dwells within the London Underground and seeps out of grates and drains to attack all passers-by. The constant Londoner is, of course, immune to this onslaught, but visitors are swiftly invaded and felled.

Even though the original Miasma theory may have been refuted by Dr Snow back at Seven Dials, as explained in THE GHOST MAP, I am keen on my current interpretation, especially when hacking and coughing in a feverish bed. As for the “air” circulating not in trains but in planes . . .

But this week – and aren’t you glad of a change of subject? -  I’m moving on. The nasty coldy thing has cleared and I can do now more than waft about like a gloomy grey shadow. Moreover, I am feeling a teeny bit optimistic, a bit more able to handle things, which I seriously doubted back in the dark clouds of last week.

So here I am, back at the desk and blog-face, keying these words in as a sign of good faith for the future. More, I hope, anon.


Have just read THE MURDSTONE TRILOGY by MAL PEET. An interestingly satirical angle on the writing of best-selling fantasy “nobbles”. There is Philip the pathetic author, other slightly overblown characters, a powerful amulet and an added Faustian pact, all enthusiastically written and enjoyable. However, alongside the romping plot, Peet is very pointedly “ouchy” about the writing life and the publishing world. I wasn’t sure whether his humour boosted my hopes exactly, but I’m glad I read it – and when I was feeling a bit brighter too: all too true in places.