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Showing posts from November, 2011

Shelagh Delaney

Salfordian writer Shelagh Delaney, 71, died on Sunday after battling with cancer. There then came the tranche of obituaries proclaiming her debut work, A Taste of Honey. I wrote a piece on the Guardian's CiF today, drawing on my well-worn themes of class and literature. I ask where are all the equivalents today, for there's just as much to portray - just as much to get riled up about - just as much to get all dramatic over.


Group of seven

It's heartening to read an article in The Guardian urging people not to be so quick to queue for hours to get into the 'blockbuster' Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery when at the quaint-in-comparison Dulwich Picture Gallery the Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven exhibition is on.


Reading, planning

I've been feeling a tad excited at the prospect of a trip to Iceland this Xmas. I've wanted to go for as long as I can remember. Perhaps one of the reasons I haven't made the relatively short flight thus far is that I don't want to be disappointed by the reality - the imaginary idyll can be a far greater place to inhabit and hanker after. I hope, then, that when I go I am not disappointed too much. I feel the need - have long felt it - to be awed by nature; the northern lights (even 'chasing' them could be a metaphor for soul-seeking), the whales of the icy waters, the geothermal waters, the possibility of volcanic eruptions, the puffins... All of it. I found myself in the BBC's Green Room at Television Centre on Thursday morning. I was accompanying a young woman engineer who was to comment on the launch of the Queen Elizabeth Medal for Engineering - a £1m prize to encourage innovation. Sir John Beddington, the government's Chief Scientist, was there, c…


I've only today realised the magnitude of my current, new, writing project. The week's previous block had, I think, arisen because this hadn't been sufficiently acknowledged, sitting instead like a huge fur ball in the gullet. So - despite having had a weekend long headache - I spent a bit of time today listing the tasks that will hopefully illuminate the way forward. It is a bigger undertaking than the phd novel and critical paper. Some would say that's the natural order of things; why wouldn't I move onto something more challenging - although there is an old novella that I caught sight of in my files today that needs a dusting off. Perhaps.

In order to reveal one story of a shadow figure I need to research a 19th century Kensington house and artistic salon, as well as some of the famous of the day who frequented. There is the family of the house itself - a culturally complicated set up of dazzling sisters - a vast chronology of artworks to put into context - a so…


I felt a bit blocked on the current writing project at the weekend and yesterday and this evening it resulted in the usual doubt that we all face - no matter what the project is. But, even if I take my feelings out of the equation and look at the stark facts, there is still scope for a very interesting, colourful story. Because it's partly historical it reassures me that bit more than it would if it were 'just' a contemporary work of the imagination. My main character actually lived both in the shadows - and yet also as muse - surrounded by a cast of many colourful characters. That's when I realised that I'm trying to rush the writing; the story. The truth is, whilst I've read up a bit it's nowhere near enough - and I'd be in danger of building only a house of sand and fog if I don't build a stronger foundation - it barely even matters if I don't use most of the information I collate, it serves to fuel a sense of confidence in what one is doing …

Saved - Edward Bond

Fortuitously, I was able to get a ticket to see the last matinee performance of Edward Bond's play, Saved, at the Hammersmith Lyric. I first read the play text in 2004 and it left a strong impression - a baby being stoned in its pram in a scene of tormentingly rising violence and hatred had a lot to do with it. I felt that the vitriol the young men aimed at the infant was because it represented how they saw themselves: powerless, pitiable, pathetic. These south London 'youths' were disaffected, disengaged, and despicable. Pam, the daughter of parents who are in a long-term war of loaded silence, and the mother of the 'stoned' child, is suffering from either severe post-natal depression or a more complex, structuralist set of conditions and causes. I'm assuming the latter given Bond's leanings. As without, so within. The father, who speaks not a word until a good hour into this three hour play, is renowned stage actor Michael Feast. Yet to single one actor o…