Saturday 17 December 2011

jingle jangle bell time

Is it that time already? Christmas upon us once more and only just hanging witch catchers or preventers or whatever they're called on the tree. (Baubles to those who aren't in the know.) Does anyone out there really know anything about the witch and the bauble thing? Let me know ASAP. Anyway, the tree is now full of glitz and smells of forests and stands like a rather large green brush which has just cleaned out a bottle full of light and colour and pine wood sap. It's in the corner by the fire. A Victorian Christmas card scene. Actually it's hiding the mess that sits on the shelves and which suffers an occasional dusting, an occasional sorting and culling, but never looks any different How is that? Answers please.
Well, it seems that at least with Alice and me, Franco-English relations are fine and dandy, no matter what David C. tries to do to stymie it things. In answer to Alice's question (see post -oh how wonderful that feels to be able to write that. Take note everyone who might be toying with the idea of saying hello...all is forgiven...) my manuscript has already done the Frankfurt thing, I believe. What actually happens there is mystery to me, but it's been there done that and if books can get T shirts then it has one of those too, and will be published in Berlin apparently. So brushing up on the few words I have in teh lingo, just in case. So there it is. Maybe soon we'll have a book cover to show everyone. We have a title but until the cover is sorted I'm keeping it to myself. Who knows what might happen if I give the game away too early. Happy Christmas to you all. And to the person who will no doubt come to my door selling yellow dusting cloths and gadgets to clean the inside and outside of my windows both at the same time. Which is remarkable.

Friday 11 November 2011


Yes. I know. It's been weeks. Months. I almost forgot that I was a blogger. Well it's not as if anyone out there is reminding me... and I've been away and busy and all sorts of darned excuses. Researching book number two now, but please look out for book number one which will be coming in your direction in 2013. Lord that seems a world away. And I must brush up on my German. Hah now that's got you interested. I'll give you the title and the reason why, if you're very good and say hello to me before then. Put it in your diaries. Diary. Hi Alice, how's it going? Sole friend. You know why already.
11.11.11 I took my cup of coffee to the local Cenotaph and gathered myself there along with a pit bull terrier (or some such dog) and its owner, the local parking ticket man, complete with high viz jacket, and a whole bunch of others who just melted out of the street and cars and shops and landed around the monument. It wasn't an official thing, that's on Sunday, and there was no-one to lead us in a service, so we just did our own, taking the cue from the local private school which hauled out all of its pupils, gowned up all of its teachers and rustled up a very fine cornet player. The Last Post drifted over the school, enough to catch most of it, and use as a timing device. Then silence.
Silence is an interesting thing. You hear all sorts. Like the scrape of leaves across the paving stones, and the trees breathing in the wind. Oh and the cars, still moving, not stopping for a couple of minutes, which is a pity. What's two minutes out of 356 days worth?
No, I don't know anyone on that monument, I don't know their families. I read the names anyway, as a list poem, and when you've only one face of the monument to read, you get to the bottom of the list and start again. You can go on and on. Not just for two minutes but for two days. More. The same names repeating so that maybe you almost get to know them. Remembrance Day services always remind me of my dad, who, if he was alive today, would still sit and cry as the poppies tumble down and the bands march. Big tough Royal Marine, battle-scarred inside and out. He could so easily have been a name on a monument. I'm so glad that he wasn't. But maybe we all have someone, somewhere, whose name could be on a monument. I suppose that's why I gathered myself and my coffee, and though not properly dressed, (writing gear, sloppy, slobbing around gear, I hope nobody minded) stood in a biting wind and heard the leaves and the wonderful cornet player, just a boy, probably in a school uniform.
That's it. I'm done now.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

check, check and check again

You see, trying to be a smart alec and publish my posts without checking enough, so stray words get in. Slap my hands. Apologies all round. Annoyed it is, I am though, (just fancied a bit of Star Wars there) because my replies seems to have gone nowhere. How is that? Tried to answer Alice, my faithful follower, and she didn't get it. So who did? That's what I want to know. And if anyone else out there is hanging onto Alice's reply then... then... then... well don't know what I'll do really. Just enjoy, I suppose and think of poor Alice. So Alice, you will have your reply in the body of my blog for now. As you're the only one actually responding. Not that I feel friendless and unloved. No siree. Not me. Though the milk on my doorstep keeps going off pretty d. quick and I keep getting litter through my letter box i.e. stuff I really don't want to know about, such as offers on planet sized pizzas and armies of painters and decorators just begging to gloss my woodwork. You know the thing.

Thursday 1 September 2011

healthy food, healthy living

This week I found myself researching a few final details for Megan's story. And off I popped to the city hospital and sat with my skinny latte and notebook, in what could double as a French pavement cafe area (serving any amount of any kind of food available possible) and watched so many people down so much junk! How can that be? Why are they serving any junk food when we're about to suffer an obesity explosion which will cost the health service millions. Do hospital get paid a kind of bums-on-seats (or rather bods in beds) commission, so the surest way to get new patients is to feed them heart trouble in a bun? I'm bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

Obviously, I could have had a muffin, or a brownie, or a packet of biscuits with my latte but didn't. Later, waiting to see someone I had a cup of soup and a pineapple pot. OK so neither is anywhere near as nice as a double choc chip muffin or full butter shortbread and self congratulation doesn't take the edge off plain greed, emotional necessity or habit, but still I managed it. But why tempt people? It's... a.... hospital... Duh!
Bet they don't sell cigarettes in hospitals!
Maybe I ought to check that one out.

Friday 12 August 2011

try though I might

Just a worrying little thought. Being an absolute Luddite at all things technical, and I've said this before, you may remember, I'm not entirely sure what happens to my replies when someone comments. I write them and try to send them and then can't seem to find them anywhere. Alice, help me out here. Did you get my reply re: Chameane?

my kingdom

Now then, here's a to do. What to call the book. What title to give it. What a weight on the shoulders. Not mine exactly (my publisher's), but even so. All important stuff because no-one's going to buy a book with a naff title. Here's the question. What makes a naff title? Anyone out there care to get involved? Is it, too many words? Is it, too sugary? Is it, too dull? Is it, what is it exactly, that makes a title so bad you don't even want to use the book as a door stop. I'll leave that question hanging out there like one of those non-biodegradable carrier bags, those strange fruit which hang on our winter trees. We have one in our garden. It's blue. No name. No title. So I can't blame a particular superstore, though I'd like to blame the lot of them for putting my butcher, baker and candlestick maker out of business. But that's another story. This blue bag emerges like some very confused animal out of summer hibernation and dangles, or is battered by our salty winds, and still it hangs on, every single atom of its make-up, intact and ready to face another decade. The tree is too high to climb. I can't get it down. The bag, that is. I can plot the seasons with this one blue carrier. But it has me thinking. Maybe my title needs to be non-biodegradable. Anyway, I'll keep you posted. Hiya Alice. Bonjour. How're doing? Can't remember that in French, such a bad linguist am I. Fancy some German translation?
OK. So... now I'm going to click on PUBLISH POST and see what happens. Anything can, apparently, in the next few minutes.

Friday 5 August 2011


Guess what? You won't so I'll tell you. I have found a number of unpublished posts. A number!How has that happened when I've completed and clicked on the publish button? And I've been assured that all has gone ahead. I was fond of those posts. They took seconds to compose, seconds out of my life. Can someone out there, who is wiser than me, explain this? If I want to publish them I can, apparently, but they'll be completely out of synch. How festeringly maddening is that! I might be forced to complain. And would, if I could be certain it wasn't my fault.


Alice, Alice, Alice. You have restored my faith in blogging.

Friday 22 July 2011

thud on the mat?

Contracts are weird and wonderful things. It came, so I know these things. Full of words from another century, but isn't that the way of the legal world? Lots of clauses and one, very simply written, at the end: Bloomsbury, welcoming me to their list. It was worth reading just to get to that bit! And so I can come clean. That's who are publishing Megan and Jackson (title yet to be confirmed) and my agent is the wonderful James Catchpole. I still find it hard to believe that people out there actually like my work. It's a miracle. But I'm perfectly happy to accept it and move on. And here beginneth the work. A synopsis of novel number two by December. Best get a move on. If anyone out there feels like breathing a sigh of relief on my behalf, then do. Sigh away.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Some day my contract will come

Whilst waiting for the contract to thud onto my doormat (these things take time I've realised) I have been busy. Oh yes. Never let it be said that I wallow. Busy with young people at a school and producing a publication of their best work. Now, I'm about to crow with no apologies. I hate people who crow, however, I actually managed a fifteen page booklet complete with page numbers and illustrations. OK there's a bit of show-through which is a technical term for thin paper. I think. Anyway the final product will have more dense paper, so that it feels substantial, and a stiffish cover. Now aren't I clever? Anyone? Yoo hoo! Harrumph. Well I think I'm clever. It's taken years to get this far. So I'm patting myself on the back. Crowing into the silence that is the Internet. My blog, at any rate. Meanwhile, back at computer, still trying to decide on novel number two which has to follow a year after Megan and Jackson's story. So what to do. What to do. I have stories coming out of my ears. So that's not the problem. It's choosing the right one and if there was anyone out the with an iota of compassion (harrumph again) then you'd be showering me with pearls of wisdom. Waiting. Waiting... On Friday, troubled by this lack of focus on book two, I went to see Lanterns on the Lake and Kathryn Williams who were on as part of our local summer festival which, as ever, this is summer time after all, was rained upon and struck with lighting, and thunder rolled out of nowhere, and people scuttled about wearing umbrellas and shorts. As it was a bolt out of the blue decision to go to this concert we hadn't timetabled in food so picked up a chip supper (how Scottish does that sound!) from a fab chippy and ate them on a bench under a spreading chestnut tree (....or something...). Ended up with mushy peas and various flakes of fish all over the place ( change there, then...) and dollops of mince and gravy from an absolutely lush pie, all over me. (Not so usual. But, anyone who wants to argue that point, please feel free; then I'll know someone's reading this) You see, it's not that we're tramps as such. It's these wee plastic forks they give you. They pick up one pea at a time, and that's at a push, or one grain of mince, and they'll only spear one chip at a time. So, daintily eaten i.e small amounts going in rather than shovels full, but delicate, no. Not with all the splashes. So went to the theatre looking something like tramps. Mind you, nobody seemed to notice. Too busy with the show. I like that theatre. I'd like to sing there one day.

Friday 10 June 2011

Megan is going places

It seems like forever since I said anything and I'm sorry, but life has been so full of twists, turns and surprises recently... you have no idea. Well some of you might. Anyway, Megan's story is going to be published, by a very notable company, I am delighted and excited to tell you, but the contract's not signed yet, so just in case there's an earthquake or a flood or something to get in the way of things, I'm not going to reveal names or details, except those of my sheer delight, of course. Which you can possibly imagine all by yourselves, but think of lots of fizz and bubbles, whizzing around inside and never stopping. That's how good it feels. Plenty of the drinkable fizz too, to celebrate, but now that I've come back down to earth, the nitty-gritty begins, the little bits of re-writing here and there, and the plans for book two, which is all part of the deal and which should come out a year after Megan. So those of you who are reading this, just keep dropping by and I'll keep you posted, as and when I can. This is a very happy me!

Friday 29 April 2011


Speaking of hopes. I do have some, but didn't want to climb all over W & C's special day. My hopes. Well, world peace and harmony, of course; jobs for all with decent pay; and a debt free, housed, society which has the time and energy to enjoy life and all who sail in it. And I haven't written a poem because this isn't Miss World. Then there are the hopes that the people I love can have the health and the riches they deserve (and I don't just mean money but you know, in for a penny...). And for me some scarlet ribbons. No chance. OK then... that Megan and Jackson will stop spinning and settle in that far off galaxy, which is the publishing world, with some star who loves them and who wants more, and who will twinkle on their behalf. I know. Too much to ask. Pie. Sky. Bridge. Far. River. Deep. But you know, if there were no hopes and no dreams, where would we be? I am capable of simpler hopes, by the way. That a cake will rise (Ha! As if); that I can manage my targets at the gym (ditto); that I can stop the rats eating the blackbird's eggs (and that's not going to happen any time soon). OK. Maybe not so simple. Easier to go for the biggies, I think, and just dream that they'll all come true one day, and leave the cake making etc to someone else. Going away now. To dream. To hope.
I may be some time.

A right royal I do

What is it about pomp and circumstance? Don't know, but it does for me every time. It's the music, the voices, the height of that abbey, it's how little people look in its immensity. And that makes me think they're just two human beings getting married. We've all dressed up and found fascinators to look silly in and ties to look strangled in. So come on, you cynics. This is their fascinator and tie. Anyway I like the royal razzmatazz, the red-flocked carriages, the trumpets and horses; I like the flounces and feathers, the bridle, bit and brasses. Even the avenue of trees. Em. Not so sure about those, but hey. Why not? I loved it. Unashamedly. And you want to know why? It's to do with hope. You just hope, basically, don't you? For the greater things and the smaller.

Friday 15 April 2011

just a song

So I've been holed up in our friends' cottage (swanky, I know) just a stone's throw from Bamborough Castle and how lucky am I? Very. Not a holiday, but a rather feverish week of song writing and snatched meals. Well, sort of snatched. In fact not snatched at all. I'm just trying to sound like a consumptive poet in a garret. We had very nice meals in fact, cooked in the main by Colin, who can turn his hand to most tasks - even whilst fading one thing, sliding another, balancing this and thumping that (sound-engineering and percussion, in case you're wondering). He rustled up Thai curry, fish soup, and something with rice, not sure what, but it was gorgeous. As for me, my famous ham and lentil soup and a rather dodgy looking but tasty sausage, bean and black pudding mess, with enough left over to have on toast next day at lunchtime. Odd combination, but hey! If all else fails I could market that. We didn't attempt the belly buster breakfast in Seahouses. In fact, who does? Half a pig, a plantation of tomatoes, a mile of sausage and anything else you want to try, all thrown into a stotty the size of Kielder. Who can eat all that? The mind boggles. We had the mini version, which was just fab and it made a change from brekkie at 'home'. Great place, by the way, the cottage. Guinea fowl in the garden, peacocks on the lawn (well, not our lawn, exactly)with that weird call of theirs, and just over the dunes, the sea with a deserted beach. Bit cold for a plodge, mind you, but an early morning canter over the sands and an early dusk amble across the fields to the pub (rather more of the latter admittedly) was just about enough to keep us together over the days. My friends wouldn't have recognised their neat little cottage in the dunes after we'd festooned it with leads, trailed it with wires, plastered it with blank pages and turned it into a recording studio. Never worked so hard! Nonetheless exhilarating. And years of lyrics collecting like cobwebs on my desk and in my computer swept out and put to use with the excellent tunes of Tony S. Now though, back home, I feel like my brains have been scrambled. The next step is mixing down ( I know the terms, get a load of that!). Hmm. Is it mixing up...? Anyway that's going to take someone a very long time to do. So be patient, dear reader. (You are out there, aren't you?) And if I ask you to become a 'dear listener', if we can persuade ourselves to UTube some of this, would you do me the honour and give us marks out of ten? No. On second thoughts, just listen. I wouldn't want any of that Simon Scowl judgementalism aimed at our songs. No siree.

Sunday 13 March 2011

too much

It feels like these months have whizzed by. Too much work, not enough writing time, too much waiting for things to happen, not enough writing time, too many emotional family moments, not enough writing time, too much of this, that, and the other. And so it goes on. Life, you may say. Just a few more weeks at the university to go but have started a ten week stint at a school, and about to start a four week stint with elders of the city. You know, that's the politically correct term but to me elders are trees, but there you go. Meanwhile, so as not to appear totally inadequate and paralysed by the stuff of life, I have been writing short stories, selling a few, rewriting rejected ones and sending them back out. Hey, I like these stories and refuse to just bin them and plodding on is a major part of my character. Anyone important out there, just remember that. Which brings me to the vague worry that there isn't anyone out there, not at all. You could prove me wrong, of course. And yet why worry? There's a whole world of worry out there all crammed into one country, and a minute's silence at a rugby match just shows you. House of card, paper, bamboo, home of the Haiku, I salute you. Worry too.

Sunday 6 February 2011

technology technology

So I've just set up my songwriting computer package, designed for Luddites like me, apparently, only judging by the tutorial video, they don't know what a Luddite is. Whizz whizz, click click, move the mouse and Bob's your uncle. No. No. No. Take me through the switching on, the finding of the actual switch, the actual clicking, flicking glory of making it go. I mean it guys, I can write a story and I can write a song, but sometimes I can't find the switch to turn things on, and you know I'm not the only one, so just tell me where the button is first. Is that too much to ask? Take it slowly, monosyllabically, through to the next teensy weensy step and so on. Don't care how long it takes. Just get me there, toe by toe.

Sunday 30 January 2011

like a dog at a bone

It seems to me that if you really like a story, just hammer away at it till it's the shape they want. They meaning the editors. There's a poem about that somewhere. John Donne I think. Only he was referring to something entirely different and probably more important. Yet, my elephants were important to me, and now they've been accepted. Let's hear it for the baggy skinned, bun eating, feet the size of tyres (and some) favourite animal of mine. I have a mantle-piece full of them, as those who follow my every word will know. Ha! As if! Anyway, they were marching up to the manger last Christmas, now they're walking down a village street in post-war England, ready to wow an audience which hasn't seen a circus for a very long time and isn't sure it wants to. Third time lucky. The first rejection was to do with it being unrealistic. OK it was told through the eyes of a donkey (where'd that come from, you might ask; read the story when it comes out and you'll see), so I stopped donkey thinking and made man think instead... and some who know me know my thoughts on that... talk about a reality check... but then his actions seemed unrealistic. Second rejection, tempered with -but we liked it - so I changed his actions too. Anyway, acceptance at last. So hey ho. Off to the bank I go. By the way, there are some sniffers out there who rail at the very idea of (me) writing for money. I nursed for money. I stacked shelves for money, once upon a teen time, and I sing for money. Does that make me a bad person? Answers on a post card please. Or here would do. Can of worms time, perhaps.

Wednesday 12 January 2011


So, because once I played the soprano sax, I now have a clarinet. Christmas present. Those who claim to know all, and in fact don't, told me -the fingering's the same, babe. A doddle. You can do it. Well, it's not, as it happens. And up till now I can get a very nice tone on the lower register but murdering cats on the upper and it's a mind warp thing, cos the register shift key doesn't rack you up to another octave, at least not the one you're expecting. So. Not the same. Not nearly the same. And so many blinking levers. You could drive a plane with all those levers. Not to worry. Perseverance is my middle name. My writerly friends can tell you that I stick like dog do to any project till Ive seen it through. However long it takes. Though not a button accordion. I gave that up. After a year. Is there a Clarinet and Accordion Shelter anywhere? Ebay probably. Back to the easier task of shaping Megan so that they love her to bits and can't wait to put her in a book and shelve her. Shelve her? That can't be right. Isn't the English language a marvellous puzzle!

Monday 10 January 2011

the ghost is dead

So this is how it goes. Major storyline now surgically removed from Megan's story. Not quite as painful or traumatic as I thought and after three weeks agonising over it just sat down and did the darned things cos that's what you have to do. Less is more. And I think it is more.
Meanwhile off to uni to teach a semester in creative writing, off to school to teach eight year olds creative writing and tell some stories to little munchkins in first and second year primary. Also just talked myself into taking a week and recording some new material with ace guitarist Tony. At least, that's the plan as long as our friends who own that nice cottage near the sea can spare it for five days. Crikey, can't believe I've initiated this! But I can feel songs just ready to go, having been buried catacomb-like. If you want to know about the ghost well maybe that's Megan, book 2. But let's just get this one sorted first. Time to spell check. Hiya France. How're you doing? You OK? Happy new everything to you all, where ever you are. And my resolutions come tumbling down cos, well they were built on shifting sand. As always.