Just a quick one today, because I’ve been writing a pantomime script for two days solid, it’s nearly midnight, and I need to go to sleep before my dear darling son wakes up for a couple of hours.

I just wanted to recommend a couple of things. Firstly, the book: Stephen Fry’s “The Ode Less Travelled”. I’ve been reading this book for a couple of days, between script writing, and it is the most wonderful journey into poetry I could imagine. It explains formal terms and how to use them, with a handy reference table at the end of the chapter, and includes exercises to put the theory into practice. It has opened up a world of poetry to me, and I cannot wait to finish the panto so I can get back on with the book.

Secondly, aforesaid poetry. I have been dabbling with poetry a little over the past few months without any insight or guidance to get the most from it. Now, however, I am beginning to notice poetry in everyday life. I know this sounds pretentious, but bear with me. I am picking up rhythms in speech, I am noticing alliteration in hidden places (deliberate as well as accidental). I am learning to break down language and to play with language and it is more exciting than I can ever remember it being.

Here is a link to “The Ode Less Travelled” on Amazon (UK), and I hope you get as much enjoyment from it as I have so far.


Yearly reflection

It’s coming up to the time of year again where I look back and wonder where on earth the time has gone. My son’s birthday is next week, and I have barely adjusted to the idea that I have a son.

There is hardly a day that goes by without him inspiring the strongest,most overwhelming feelings in me. Yes, some of those feelings are frustration and annoyance – “why won’t he go to sleep? Why won’t he eat his dinner? Why won’t he let me go to the toilet in peace?” – but mostly I am amazed everyday at his miraculous development.

Every day he learns a new word, says an old word a little clearer, copies something new that we do, learns a new skill. He is the world’s best builder, a Brit-winning singer, the next Picasso/Shakespeare/Shaw. He can kick a ball better than David Beckham, he is funnier than Peter Kay. All this, and he’s not even two yet.

I look back at the first picture here, taken when he was minutes old. He is battered and bruised from a brutal forceps delivery, his skin is still blue from the cord being around his neck, he is only just calming down from the trauma of being born. I love that he is, even then, looking at me as if to say “You just wait and see what I’ve got in store, Mummy!” And then I look at the next picture, taken on my mobile on his first birthday. He is full of cheek and joy and life. The last picture was taken a couple of months ago at a friend’s birthday party, and I can see all the mischief he promised as a newborn in that smile. I wonder what the difference will be in a year’s time.

It’s been an exhausting, emotional two years. But I cannot imagine life any other way.

Happy birthday, Daniel x x x

Breaking with technology – or maybe not

So, I decided, in my infinite wisdom, that I was spending WAY too much time on facebook, twitter, blogs, reading about writing, reading about reading, reading about procrastination. I decided that I needed to actually do more of the things I was reading about.I decided to avoid facebook and twitter and blogs for a few days and see how I got on.

Turns out I didn’t get on all that well actually. From being someone who didn’t have a mobile phone until I left home and only got on the internet in 2000 (ish) I am now hooked on the web. And like all bad habits and addictions it takes up all my time, prevents me from actually doing anything productive, interferes with a ‘normal’ daily life, sucks me back in to doing it more and more and, when I finally do switch the computer off, I feel dissatisfied and guilty because I just wasted so much time. I may have read thirty new blog posts on writing a bestseller, I may have read fifty thought provoking and insightful pieces of writing, but at the end of the day I have gained nothing but frustration and guilt from the experience. And yet I carry on!

So, instead of going cold turkey and hoping that I might use that time to be a better writer, wife, mother, I am going to at least try and use the time productively to improve my writing. I am also going to kill two birds with one stone and actually make use of this blog. With these aims in mind I am planning to go through the huge collection of family photos stored on my laptop without any hope of ever seeing ink and paper and post a photo with a reflection on said photo, every day that I am on the computer. Hopfeully I will also have days when I am not on the computer at all!

And I am absolutely, definitely, maybe going to stop using the word actually. Way overused. Tap on the hand and do better next time.

Favourite Jane Austen novel?

I know a LOT of people are writing blogs about Jane Austen and one or another of her books, and there are more polls to do with Jane Austen than you can shake a fan at, but I wanted to get in on the action.

Without a doubt my favourite is Pride and Prejudice. I know it’s a cliché but I can’t help it. It has to be one of the most romantic novels ever, and the wonderful way you can keep rereading it and finding more layers (see my post Mr Darcy #1 )keeps it fresh and exciting. Besides, who doesn’t read it and secretly want to knock their heads together right at the beginning? Come on, own up. And getting into a book that much right from the start, for me, is a sign of a really fabulous story.

Runner up? Northanger Abbey. It takes a couple of readings maybe, but the parody of the gothic novel is very funny, and Catherine is an endearing heroine who most teenagers can identify with. Particularly if they also have a slightly overactive imagination!

So let me know what your favourite book is. I’ve done my first poll, below (hopefully anyway), or send me a comment.

Mr Darcy #1

I have recently started re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and one of the many wonderful things about this book is that no matter how many times you read it, you always find something new.

I am probably well behind the times on this, I have no doubt there are loads of people who would read this and say “dur! obviously!”, but bear with me, because I have one minute of believing myself to be a literary genius and I want to make the most of it.

Although Darcy’s manners are continually pointed out as being aloof, arrogant, haughty, and generally not a fun guy to be around, Jane Austen makes a point of telling us early in the book that:

“Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own,”

and again a short time later:

“in spite of [Darcy’s] asserting that [Elizabeth’s] manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.”

Is it not odd that a man who is so sure of his own worth as to be above being pleased by anyone who does not meet his lofty standards should be specifically drawn to these people because of their more informal, easy manners? And the people in question are not casual acquaintances, they are his closest friend and his future wife. Is this another clue from Austen that there is more to Darcy’s lack of social skills than mere pride and arrogance?

It is also, to me at least, odd that the people who share his apparent fastidiousness are Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine, yet he does not appear to do more than tolerate their company. He certainly shows a marked preference for talking to Elizabeth or Bingley above these two. Anyway, I haven’t got all that far on this reading yet, so I may be eating these words later.

I just thought it was interesting that it was not Bingley’s wealth and fashionable habits that endear him to Darcy, or Elizabeth’s intelligence, but the complete opposite of his own manners. Is there a possibility that he is, even deep down, hoping to acquire some of their ‘easy and unaffected’ manners rather than his usual attitude? It will be interesting to go through the rest of the book with this question in mind.