Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2012

North Downs

I took myself off to complete what was meant to be a fairly easy 6-mile circular walk of the Wye Downs, North Downs, today. It turned out to be certainly more than 6-miles and a bit of a detour from the directions I had downloaded from the North Downs national path website. But Wye is where I started - and where I ended up, so it was all good. I hadn't slept very well last night - finally getting to sleep in the early hours, having battles the humidity. I woke with a headache and thought ugh at the prospect of trains and hills. But I'm so glad I did. I returned back into St. Pancras for 5pm, feeling tired but restored and as though my spirit had undergone expansion.

The winds up on the Downs were, in the first hour or so, quite wild, making the long grass dance back and forth; the clouds were fast moving, as though the sky was still looking for somewhere to fix its blanket of shade.

Wye is a tiny village, having given the world the 17th century woman playwright and author Aphr…

Reacting to Tories

I have refrained from using this blog to chart my thoughts and feelings on this government since they managed to get into office in 2010 - partly because the posts would be too long and too frequent! However, an incident occurred this morning on the tube - the District Line from Richmond - that I wanted to write about. Writers like to listen to conversations wherever they are 'performed', and make no mistake, this particular one was a performance. The lady, a dowager type with trowelled on make-up and a heavy frame that suggested a regular greedy gobbling of chocolates, was remarking to her Daily Mail reading ex-city type husband, that she didn't know how anyone could vote Labour. I was sat one seat away from her. She was talking loudly and with a sickening grandiosity, as if all Labour supporters were stupid and thick. And yes, I thought, typical bloody Tory, travelling from Richmond where Tory cuts will affect a mere few. The tube, as is often the case on that line, was …

Catch up

Last week I wrote an article for CiF/Guardian asking whether Louise Mensch, the Tory MP for Corby, should be setting up a new business (a political discussion site called menshn!) whilst she is also meant to be a full-time MP.

Having finished King Crow I am now loathe to return to I Know This Much is True. I have this week off, I'm glad to say, leaving me some precious time to get on with rewriting Mary Burns. But I won't be just stuck in front of a laptop. I've also built in catch ups with a few friends (it's amazing how one neglects these when working/travelling long hours). Wednesday I'm off to spend the day at the St Pancras Renaissance hotel's spa for a spot of rest and recuperation - sauna, swim, snoozing. Thursday may involve the London Library and cycling, and Friday will see myself and a friend heading out to Wye, the North Downs village and birthplace of Aphra Behn, for a six-mile circular trek that will hopefully provide clarity of mind and oxygen!


King Crow

Last night I finished Michael Stewart's debut novel, King Crow (2011). The biggest wonder is how on earth the big publishers missed out on it; although that assumes Stewart even approached them. Northern based Bluemoose is the lucky publisher of this gem, and I am reliably informed that it is a publisher to watch, having also published Ben Myers's Pig Iron. Narrated in present first person one would think it wouldn't lend itself to the alienation of protagonist Paul Cooper. Yet it does - remarkably well. Sixteen-year-old Cooper is obsessed with birds and carries a list of those he has seen. Each chapter is headed with a type of bird, setting the tone for the next stage of Cooper's journey, from Salford to Helvellyn and back again. No sentence can be faulted; the prose is focussed yet poignant for it. The journey features death of another outcast and we learn of Cooper's homelife with a lesbian mum who has her own demons to constantly fight. For those who have the e…

King Crow and catch up

I was reading Wally Lamb's I know this much is true - I still am - but I've laid it aside (figuratively speaking as it's the kindle version) - in order to read the marvellous King Crow. I'm far from halfway through, given I only started on it yesterday, but the tone is accomplished and the voice bang on. It's about a teenage boy who lives in Salford with a penchant for ornithology. Birds.

Yesterday, after several weekends of feeling disconnected from the Mary Burns rewrite, I got into a stride. I wrote longhand - which I haven't done for yonks - and I ended up with sixteen or so pages. Writer's cramp is much more pleasing than writer's block. I'm hoping it will be as easy to resume this Friday. I have seven working days off from this Thursday and I need to get it into a fit state to resubmit. And then, this evening, as I arrived home from a very long day at work, I found myself with the opening paragraph of a book that has been jostling for space fo…

Waiting for Sunrise

I’ve recently finished reading William Boyd’s fast-paced and gripping First World War novel, Waiting for Sunrise. Fiction, like the more firmly established poetry, set around this most futile of wars can be said to have a genre of its own; one need only think of Pat Barker’s compelling Regeneration Trilogy, which can be best summed up as focussed on ‘men, military and memory’.
For those accustomed with the reputation of Boyd as one of the UK’s leading contemporary novelists, Waiting for Sunrise had much to live up to. Set in the years before and during the First World War, the book opens in Vienna, Austria. It is here that we are introduced to the main protagonist of Lysander Rief. A fashionable young man with a ‘sportsman’s build’ and ‘brown breeze-blown hair’, and a London stage actor, he is in Vienna to partake of psychoanalysis in order to cure a sexual issue before he marries the beautiful, intriguingly named Blanche Blondel. Rief consults an English psychoanalyst based in the Aus…