About Mary J Howell

I am a writer living in Snowdonia National Park on the north West coast of Wales. The beauty of the countryside is inspirational, although I love to travel and write about that too. Murielle's Angel is a work of fiction inspired by walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in 2002. Honeymoon, a second novel, published 2017 and a short story is published by Honno in the anthology, Dancing with Mr Darcy. All are available to order from Amazon and bookshops and by request from the library.

Flash Back (Official Secrets)

We flew to and from Mexico recently, maxing out on a stash of films.

One, Official Secrets, an excellent Keira Knightly vehicle, portraying Katherine Gun and her struggle with her conscience, her country and the official secrets act.

It revealed/portrayed the national shame and the the national scandal of Tony Blair and government lying to the public and committing the nation’s young men and

women, to say nothing of innocent Iraqis, to depraved years of illegal war with rendition, Guantanamo Bay (agh don’t) and the dropping of the case because it would reveal the lie.

One of the lawyers advising Katherine Gun was Shami Chakrabarti then head of Liberty, now a baroness. It felt strange to see her fictionalised. I met her at a writing retreat at Gladstone’s library is my claim, before I’d looked at her CV online, before reading On Liberty, before Jeremy Corbin recognised her worth. She was forever at his side in those horrible parliamentary debates. It felt one of those six degrees of separation moments, a blend of coincidence and a minor brush with greatness.

Official Secrets was not funny. It points out the vindictiveness of our government with regard to deportation and legislation that makes challenging official secrets an impossibility – however wrong, illegal, unprincipled those imposing the secrecy, A neat piece of story telling that lost out perhaps in the oscars to Parasite, also thought provoking but darkly funny.

Can’t imagine how Katherine Gun felt about the film.

Any day soon

We are well placed here on the edge of the country with only the sea and distant Ireland to one side and mountains to the other before any marauding virus gets to us. Who knows for sure how it migrates from one person to another? By hand, by mouth, by cruel word or unkind deed, by vibrations in the air we breathe? I’m no scientist. Not any kind of scare monger. My instinct would be to make light. ‘Happy self isolating!’ I say, causing derision from those sorely afflicted. Boris’ gallows humour is perhaps out of place, too.

Self isolating

An agnostic Catholic, my faith is in beauty, a face, nature, music, a poem or a neat turn of phrase, prayer a recourse when others are in need.

Here on the edge we are imbued with beauty. it is no sacrifice to self isolate. Just getting it done, whatever it takes, no hardship as yet.

Pristine New Year

A winter walk on a pristine beach as the day wanes might lead to feelings that all is well with the world.

Take a closer look and problems surface. At my feet with every step was plastic waste.

My hands were soon full. A couple with a dog offered me a poo bag. ‘We often do our bit. Collect plastic and rubbish when we’re walking the dog.’

That isn’t the point though, is it? Public spirited individuals trying to stem the tide of a global problem. If production of plastic were stopped dead tomorrow the problem would remain, but would make sense of picking up what remains.

A ten minute trawl.

Return to writing

Spread this far!

Rage at the duplicity of the government and the simplicity of people who follow them but do not see the suffering caused before our very eyes.

A gap of at least a year with not much written bar a few earnest letters to a new friend on death row. Suddenly the old urgency is back. Unfinished stories locked in the computer with far too much backlog altogether shake their cages.

Let’s hope some of them find freedom.

Epiphanies

An angel poking the three kings, don’t you just love this concept? To say nothing of the three Kings as bedfellows. Perhaps travelling together meant they had to rough it a bit. I wish an angel would poke the conscience of Theresa May and her bed fellows and open their eyes. ‘Oy you, leave it out!’

Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow: art and activism

Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow, about a woman trying to save the world one chicken at a time, is theatre to watch out for. Part of the Litmus Fest at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, a festival designed to support the development of new work and new ways of making work.

Bronya Deutsch of Mother Bunch (www.motherbunch.co.uk) a graduate of the Lecoq School for physical theatre in Paris, is clown, artist and activist par excellence. The exposure of the iniquity of intensive chicken farming and the dire consequences to the mental health of the factory workers is bitingly funny and so effective I’m surprised all the audience have not immediately written to their MPs to demand conditions in the meat processing industry improve or, better still, desist forthwith.

For theatre with a message to do its work, it has to be excellent and Bronya Deutsch excels.