Monday 30 January 2012

Sunsets and Inspiration

‘When you surrender to what is fully now and so become fully present the past ceases to have any power.’ E.Tolle

Thanks G for the pictures and the inspiration.

And now
And now
And now wx
And now
And now
And now wx

Sunday 29 January 2012

Joe's List

W.I.P New Novel is about a group of writers. One of them is Joe Conroy aged nineteen who lives in a hostel. He has been advised to make lists before he starts his story about Trace who lives in a group home

List - Trace at the Seaside - Joe Conroy

- Fat Bob and skinny Joan, on duty
- Bob drives the brand new minibus.
-The sea boiling up like scummy soup
- The darker sky simmering like grey custard
- The mini-bus stinking of dinner, salt, vinegar crisps and hair-gel
- Bob and Joan light off to King William pub
- As they walk away Bob touches Joan’s arse
- Glass box with weird talking clown – one lass runs off screaming
- Five pound-coins in Trace’s paw
- Bag of chips, ice lolly and three goes on the waltzer
- Whirling round and round and round
- Sea, lighthouse funfair.
- Sea, lighthouse, funfair
- Sea, lighthouse, funfair
- Woozy, sea-sick, Trace falls into the arms of a lad with red socks
- She joins him racing the tide and the tide wins
- Sheltering from the rain, tucked under the cliff
- Fucking in rain that fingers his bare arse
- The boy in red socks can’t manage
- Rain stops. Trace laughs. The lad
- punches her in the stomach and runs
- Trace is sick into a rock-pool
- the size of giant’s foot
- hermit crabs scuttling for dinner
– later the minibus stinks of
- the salt-sea, candy floss, and the last of Trace’s dinner.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Iconic Book Group

Last Saturday our bimonthly Room To Write Book Group had its latest meeting to discuss our last set of books in the Reading Down The Decades project where every two months we read three iconic novels which represented in turn the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties. And now we were onto the Nineties. The books, chosen by our leading muse Gillian Wales were: Reading Turgenev by William Trevor; Amongst Women by John McGahern and Regeneration by Pat Barker.

I own all these books, having had read them when they were current but – being a swot! – I read them all again, This time my treat was a to read them on my new, customised Kindle. These novels were still a joy to read and appreciate again. I loved reading them in this fashion. I found the process absorbing and at the same time surprisingly swift. It was so easy to concentrate on the words.

I particularly liked the fact that I could highlight and make a separate set of verbatim notes of lines, phrases and paragraphs as great phrases struck me, Reviewing these notes on Kindle was like reading the novels all over again and they made good notes for the meeting. (These notes would make a good basis for an article on any or all of these books…)

Our group consists of ten compulsive readers, including three senior librarians,one biographer four writers and one aspiring poet. In one way the discussion was easy.These novels were all by great writers. They deserve their iconic status. This was a given. We did not need to re-invent some literary wheel.

Our opinions were quite varied and reflected the individual insights of our members but one conclusion was how entirely fresh and relevant these novels were for today, twenty years later. Regeneration brings to mind similar moral issues regarding fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the plight of military returners. Both Reading Turgenev and Amongst Women brought up the politics of both domestic and historical repression,. Most interesting was the discussion swerving to the issue of gender and writing, not just in the content but in the style and structure. For instance we thought Pat Barker and John McGahern had more similarities in their muscular, dark style than they had with William Trevor, whose brilliantly understated allusions have a gratifyingly feminine apprehension of the balance of dark and light even in a stultifying situation. We even got into a tangle about whether being passive could be an act of defiance and enabled the retaining a secret sense of self.

This is a great group. Very inspiring company for a Saturday afternoon..

My favourite verbatim quotes from my Kindle:

from Amongst Women: “Rose’s tact was so masterful that she resembled certain people who are so deeply read that they can play with all the ideas without ever listing the books,..”

from Reading Turgenev: "A person’s life isn’t orderly, Sister Hanna maintains; it runs about all over the place, in and out through time. The present’s hardly there. Only love matters in bits and pieces of a person…”

rom Regeneration: “Sometimes when you’re alone in the trenches, I mean at night, you get a sense of something ancient. As if the trenches had always been there …it had skulls on the side … like mushrooms …. it was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough’s army,…”

On a personal note I still think – as I thought in 1991 – that Billy Prior in Regeneration is the most compelling original character of the latter part of the 20th Century. And Rivers, the psychiatrist, is the most original, well imagined rendering of an historical person.

Looking forward to the next Kindle read for me: : Nicholas Nickleby for the next Bishop FM Writing Game.
My own books on Kindle: Paulies Web; The Romancer; A Woman Scorned, and Gabriel Painting.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

French Leave: Connections Between Travel and Writing.


With presents tucked away and the shortest day not far behind, and with it being dark already at four o’clock and the lashing wind stopping us from stepping outside where to our thoughts turn to?

They turn to long days, bright skies and warm summer breezes. They turn to travel and holidays which will make the high points in the new year of 2012…’

- which was how I opened the Writing Game broadcast at noon on January 1st 2012.

For the January programme the plan had always been to make the connectioFrench Leave Frontn - in highly personal terms - between my own travel and my own writing and on the writing of others who are embarking on writing.  ‘… I love the way in which even people who don’t write are inspired to make journals and scrapbooks, pinning their journeys, their summer retreats there on the page to preserve that time forever…’

I had lots more to say, of course. But with a busy and people-stocked time over Christmas the January programme loomed up far too quickly for sanity so, beloved visitors gone,  I had  two very intense days to get the programme into shape.

The first time this connection between writing and travel had a fRENCH lEAVE bACKvisible impact on me was when I wrote a young adult novel called French Leave:

‘…Over fifteen years ago in Normandy, France I came across a small very well kept military graveyard attached to a farm. ..I doscovered that the young  soldiers – some as young as eighteen – were from villages within a few miles from where I live…I was in tears when I got into the car but I knew in my writer’s heart that some time this place, this feeling would be part of a story…’

So it was some years later that I wrote French Leave - about a boy of sixteen in the 1980s  who runs away from home, hooks up with his grandfather, and travels to Normandy. Together they travel to Normandy to visit this graveyard. The grandfather, as a boy of eighteen had fought in this military action and the two of them find the grave of his friend, also eighteen, who had died alongside him.

And years later my many stays in the Languedoc in the South IWF Cover West of France inspired a novel An Englishwoman in France which illuminates the ambiguity of time which for me pervades the ancient port town of Agde. In this novel two stories - one in 304 AD and one in 2010 AD - wind into one. I am sure that without my intense experiences in  travelling in this area I could not have written this novel or had the courage to express some of the challenging ideas about time which are at its heart

I have included a reading from this novel on the programme  to give readers the flavour,



Also featured on this January edition of  The Writing Game are:

- Historian Glynn Wales on The Grand Tour – Travel and writing in the 17th and 18th century on The Grand Tour – a trip taken by aristocratic  young men, for educational, cultural and other less respectable experiences.

- A conversation with Terry Ferdinand, who also loves France. Terry tells of his adventures in buying and refurbishing a house in the Lamousin district. His enthusiasm bubbles through the microphone. He also reads for us an article – previously published in the Limousin Times, about a visit to the historic town of Aubusson, famous for its fabulous carpets.

Writing Game and past editions now available in iTunes Store at

Writing Game podcast from Bishop FM:


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