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Cycling, Classified, Poems, Burns & Engels and Love's Executioner

Ever since I got my bicycle a couple of months ago I've noticed articles and cycling campaigns everywhere. Today's Observer Review has a feature on cycling, including a group of retro fashionista cyclists! I put my bike in for a service yesterday morning because in the short time I've had it I've trashed it somewhat. I went crashing into a car a few weeks after getting it and broke the rear mud-guard, and then the chain guard became buckled so......and I'm getting it back tomorrow, hopefully feeling all brand new again, in time to cycle into the west end. Yesterday it was off to Tate Britain, not to the usual Pre-Raphaelites, but to Classified, billed as a 'rare chance to see exceptional works by today's leading artists'. The Chapman brothers collection of Ronald McDonald African type artefacts was both aptly dark and sinister but most other works left me somewhat cold, save for a dark brown block painting of tree trunks, though I forget the name of the artist.
Today I asked a few friends what their favourite poem was and, so far, it's interesting to note that there was Robbie Burns, Cavafy, and (me) Yeats, and no surprise to learn that the first friend hails from Scotland, the second has his roots in Greece, and my own are, half at least, in 'that part' of Ireland. Is this cultural loyalty? It will be interesting to see what other poems are picked, if at all.
And glad to report that I'm getting back into the swing of Mary Burns, halfway through Mary and Fred's first evening together. It really makes me wonder just what it was like for them both, he, young and in a strange city, the son of a mill owner, yet staunchly socialist already, she, spirited and principled and no doubt trying to keep body and soul together whilst always on the hunt for the next bit of work and yet they come together, something clicks and ...! Away from the heady heights of love/lust to my second Yalom book in a week, Love's Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy. Not sure how disturbed I should be at relating to some of the stories but there you go, I put it down to a heightened sense of self-awareness! I like Yalom's frankness, the tales are just as much about his own stuff as those he treats.

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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

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

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…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…