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London's glorious parks

One of the greatest things about London is not, in my opinion, Buckingham Palace, nor is it the nightlife or its fashion. It's the parks. London has so many lungs situated at convenient distances up and down its body that it often feels not like a city at all. The past couple of days I have come from under t'ground with the black dog, and have dealt with a few long overdue things, and as a result have had a much-needed breakthrough in my writing, having so far this week achieved over 4000 words of what will be the third, and totally different, draft. I have also, with bicycle, ventured out and about. This morning I awoke at some unearthly hour, before five, and instead of lying there trying to get some more shut eye I put my notebook, pencil and a couple of books into the basket of my bike and set off. It was glorious, moving through space, experiencing it in such a different way and not worrying about traffic. I cycled down to the outer circle of Regent's Park, ignored the PARK CLOSED barrier and cycled round, got off at Baker Street, and then continued on to Hyde Park, which is a park I'm not as familiar with. I am now though, after cycling around it twice. And then I cycled back, and came down Edgeware Road, eyeing up a few drunken groups still going strong from last night. I stopped off for a coffee, whilst thinking about the plot of Mary Burns, and then back through Regent's Park. I cycled slowly through a group (what's the collective?) of waddling ducks and geese, relishing the opportunity to bing bing bing on my bell, which a toddler girl, out for an early stroll with her Dad, seemed to love, her Dad too as he repeated out loud the sound of my bell to her 'bing bing bing'.

There is also a range of short stories out, each one covering a London Park, which I think I've mentioned on here before, the authors reading them out at some point, presumably in each park that has served as the inspiration for their story, during the summer. More details here.

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Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

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I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

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