Writing daily is a joy, a ritual like yoga that clears the mind. Random thoughts, mere wisps, float like motes. By writing, the motes are somehow fixed. It slows their gentle descent to oblivion. Perhaps that is why writing is an essential.  Ironic that the motes are fixed on something as ephemeral and virtual as a blog and an iPad.

Mortality is very much in focus, not just the funeral of the late Richard 3, a process almost fabulous even including the relationship of Benedict Cumberbatch. I anticipated dying aged sixty. ‘Will you have achieved all you want by then?’  A friend, well past his 60th, asked when I voiced this.

I hadn’t thought in philosophical terms, or in any depth at all.

The Boxer, sometime feature of the blog, is coming up to 94 and this winter survived pneumonia with accompanying dip in kidney function.  She was, as medical parlance has it, ‘off her legs,’ for a while. In fact she was off everything.  Surprising what takes a dip, mobility, digestion, cognition.  The return to health is wonderful to see. She will never be fully on her feet of course, as she counts her laboured steps to the bathroom with the aid of her trusted Zimmer. ‘Only 59,’  She announces as if amazed by her achievement. (Hers is a tiny bungalow, the bathroom at most six strides from her chair in the living room.) Sadly, too she is delightfully vague, unable to account for hours of her day, unable truly to focus her once fearful intellect but intermittently her old self and still loving life.

I’m uncertain what it says of character, this will to achieve, to survive even at 94, or what my assumption that life for me will peter out soon, but would agree it needs contemplating.

As for writing, that too may peter out, but perhaps will be enjoyed whilst it is and I am still here.



Goodreads Challenge


I accepted the Goodreads challenge to estimate the number of books I would read this year. I gave the conservative estimate of twelve, I am in the slow readers, but I’m glad to see I’m half way there and it’s still (just) February.
There is no system to the reading, just what takes my fancy: any book that is currently being reviewed, or has a colourful cover well displayed in a charity shop window and catches my eye, or is on the shelves at home that I’d forgotten but  always meant to read and not got round to.  Whatever.

The reading is usually a delight and provides some new insight or, uncannily, mirrors my current thoughts, or more uncannily still, mirrors my current writing project but expresses it rather better.

Ode to Joy


Sunday breakfast outdoors in December, even with a coat on, has to be noteworthy, add ‘Desert Island Discs’,  result : bliss.

Later, if the sun holds, I’ll drag out the lap top, check the latest round of rejections, prepare  the manuscript for the next batch of six potentials and try again.  Then there will be the daily word count for the next mattress filler.

One day it might even be a stocking filler.

David Mitchell




I have become a literary groupie, on the road from one festival to another to hear a favourite author, (any author?) launch their latest. David Mitchell was excellent,   amusing, thoughtful, philosophic by turn.  Perhaps liking a writer’s output automatically means you will like the writer. The 500 strong audience seemed to think so and we hung on his every word and listened to his many insights on writing.

So looking forward to reading The Bone Clocks.


Quietly Getting On

photo copy

In the evening, a blackbird sits  on the fence above a straggling rose. He barely blinks and doesn’t seem to mind as I take his photo.  He just sits there every evening about this time as  I  trawl through the manuscript for spelling mistakes and inconsistencies.   Then a little later, after he has gone and I am still trawling,  a speckled version, perhaps a lady blackbird, is on the ground beneath the fence foraging for worms.

There is no great wisdom to be gathered from this observation , or If there is it has passed me by.  I am struck by the  ordinariness of the everyday of the birds going about their ordinary every day business.

Perhaps they will be there until the editing is finished.
Perhaps the editing will never end and the birds and I will be for ever quietly getting on.

gardening days and writing days



On gardening days I am struck by the similarities between writing and gardening. I know one is a sedentary pursuit and the other anything but. Think of weeding out extraneous matter, re-planning whole sections, consigning failures to the compost bin, leaving well alone for a good long while, thinking about what to do before acting. Style is personal but  obeying the ‘rules’ can  make for pleasure and harmony.

On writing days, I worry about the garden and often nip out to snag a few brambles, or prune rampant roses, when the plot is thorny.

Perhaps this should tell me something.

With one book to your name you can’t call yourself a writer,  Sunny Boy maintains. Well I have written four so far, only one submitted and accepted and two ready to send. I have agonised over story, characters, style punctuation and plot long enough. I have lived with the story and the characters, even dreamed of them and finally think they are on their own and ready to go into the world. Well, I prepare to send them, ready or not, to share their story, first with the trusted few, who will be able to tell me, ‘no mate, you’re away with the fairies there.’  Or else (fingers crossed) ‘it’s got something.’
I wonder how many times Eimear Mc Bride was told ‘no mate.’  I think it took her nine years to find a publisher for a Girl is a Half Formed Thing . Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for her.

In Praise of Fiona Shaw


Colm Toibin discussing the novella The Testament of Mary, patiently and charmingly made clear that once a book is published and out in the world it is out of the author’s hands as a woman repeatedly took him to task over the imagery used to advertise the play made from the novella and starring Fiona Shaw. It was the crown of thorns across her mouth I think  she objected to.

Fiona Shaw’s face behind the crown of thorns used as a gag is disturbing and arresting. Perhaps she just has a strong face but it makes her look like Christ.
She was a tour de force in the Testament of Mary stage production at the Barbican but I preferred the less mad Mary I had envisioned from reading the book. Somewhere between the two, perhaps.

The Guardian, Tuesday 20 May 2014 23.33 BST

‘Among the many fine things to come out of Cork are crubeens (pigs’ trotters), the short-story writers Frank O’Connor and Sean Ó Faoláin and the actor Fiona Shaw; the last is displaying her characteristic sense of adventure on stage in The Testament of Mary. In line with the demands of Colm Tóibín’s original novella, Shaw presents us with a mother of Christ who is, by turns, angry, sceptical, guilt-ridden and grief-stricken, and who fiercely resents the appropriation of her son. This is typical of a restlessly exploratory career that, in tandem with director Deborah Warner, has led Shaw to play an emotionally arrested Richard II, a biliously pregnant Hedda Gabler and an unusually resilient Mother Courage. Some actors take the stage by default; Shaw invariably takes it by storm and is unafraid to make bold choices and bare both body and soul. In an age of cross-gender casting, one has to speculate on what she’d be like as King Lear.’