Saying goodbye…

I read a really interesting review of a series of books,  The Wheel of Time:

As I am enjoying ‘The Game of Thrones’ by George R.R.Martin, I wondered if I might enjoy this saga too. However, I was more interested in the review which made some pertinent points about reading and readers. Reading a series of books about characters, or a series which continues story and plot lines is a great commitment, it can be quite an emotional commitment… and the writer has to be aware of this! You don’t want your readers to end up hating you if you kill of a beloved person, or take the story-line in a new and different direction!

The Wheel of Time was written over a twenty-three year period by Robert Jordan, and later Brandon Sanderson, is composed of fifteen books, over four million words, a huge body of work, and many hundreds of hours of reading. The reviewer, fantasy writer Ash Silverlock,  had mixed emotions, no doubt satisfaction that the saga was finished, sadness that there would be no more to come, and mixed emotions about the finale. “… I did still feel a definite sense of loss – as if I knew that there was an old friend whom I was never going to see again, at least not in the same way (gulp).”

A definite sense of loss… I’ve felt that when finishing a book, especially a good book, or at the end of a series I’ve enjoyed such as the Joe Faraday novels by Graham Hurley, or when a favourite author dies, such as Reginald Hill, creator of the Pascoe and Dalziel novels.

I have also experienced that sense of loss when I finish writing a novel… it is so tempting to carry on past the conclusion with the characters’ lives! I mentioned before that my characters do continue their stories in my head, but I am reluctant to write sequels or to follow their lives. Maybe I’m not brave enough, maybe I think their futures are not interesting or dramatic enough, maybe I have other stories to write. Most of my characters are very ordinary people, who lead very ordinary lives until some dramatic event impacts on them, and it is how they meet the challenge of the disaster or face the adversity which makes the novel.

Icelandic names (2)

Some time ago, I wrote about an Icelandic  girl who was unable to officially have the name her mother chose for her because it was not on ‘the list’. Luckily, sense seems to have prevailed, and she is no longer known as Girl Bjarkardottir, but by her real name Blaer:

A 15-year-old Icelandic girl has won the right to use the name given her by her mother, after a court battle against the authorities. Blaer Bjarkardottir will now be able to use her first name, which means “light breeze”, officially. Icelandic authorities had objected, saying it was not a proper feminine name. The country has very strict laws on names which must fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules.

“I’m very happy,” Blaer said after the ruling. “I’m glad this is over. Now I expect I’ll have to get new identity papers. Finally, I’ll have the name Blaer in my passport.”

Reykjavik District Court’s decision overturns an earlier rejection of the name by Icelandic authorities. Until now, Blaer Bjarkardottir had been identified simply as “Girl” in communications with officials. Like Germany and Denmark, Iceland has rigid limitations about how a baby can be named. The names like Carolina and Christa, for example, are not allowed because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s alphabet. Names cannot be unisex either.

Blaer’s mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, has said that she had no idea that Blaer was not on the list of accepted female names when she gave it to her daughter. The panel rejected the name because they said it was too masculine for a girl. There are some 1,853 approved female names on the Icelandic Naming Committee’s list.

It was not immediately clear whether the government would appeal the district court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

Lost at sea… and found

In all the celebrations of the New Year coming in, there must have been many families whose 2013 had a sad and even tragic start.

The family of Jordan Cobb had the worst news ever on New year’s eve or the early hours of January 1st… their son, only sixteen years old was missing having jumped from the Torpoint ferry into the icy River Tamar  No-one is quite sure why he did it, he was with a group of friends, was it for a foolish £100 bet?

Seventeen days after Jordan went missing, a body was found in the river and later identified as that of the missing boy. What a dreadful mixture of emotions his family must have experienced, relief that their waiting was over, crushing despair that their last few hopes of a happy outcome ere dashed, and piercing grief at his death. His funeral will take place today, on the last day of the month.

A tragic story, poor family…

Highland Park… the best… and now even better

Many years ago I came across Highland Park whisky; it was a wonderful whisky, full of flavour and with a whole mille feuille of different tastes, a glorious bouquet of flavour in your nose and in your mouth. Unfortunately it became a little expensive… or maybe my pocket grew smaller, or maybe I discovered Irish whiskey… whatever… it is many, many years since I have tasted Highland Park.

Last week, as by now you will know, I went to Glasgow to see the Mavericks with some dear friends  it was the most magical night of my life and after the gig we met the band, and the tremendous support act, The Black Diamond Express. My dreams came true when I was able to chat, in a completely normal and pub-like way to Eddie, and Paul and then Raul himself. The sort of guy Raul is, he buys his fans drinks… I offered to buy him one, but no… and in this dream of an experience I asked for Highland Park. Would it match up to my remembered expectations? Well, of course it did!


Coming home we arrived early at Glasgow Airport and I wandered into the duty-free shopping area. I met a charming and helpful salesman called Ryan,  who introduced me to the true delights of Tequila (yes, I bought a bottle of Patrón) and I also bought a bottle of Highland Park… I have a wee dram beside me right now!

Thank you, Raul!

Tarr Steps gets a mention

I wrote about Tarr Steps, the old clapper bridge in South Somerset, and how the floods had swept some of the might slabs off the underneath rock supports. On BBC’s Countryfile recently there was a report about the bridge, made before the flood had happened.

This may only be available for a few weeks, however, here is the link to the programme:



Hannah Lowe and “Chick”

Much as I love poetry it is rare that I enjoy hearing it read aloud and often I’ll reach for the off-switch of the radio when a poet takes his or her first breath to begin reading. Why? I guess I like to hear the words internally, the cadences and rhythms are perfect in my head. Hearing poems read aloud the reader sometimes adopts a peculiar or ‘special ‘ voice which is just irritating and annoying (I am very easily irritated, as my family will tell you.)

On Midweek on Radio 4, a poet called Hannah Lowe was introduced and my heart sank but she spoke so interestingly about herself and her family that I listened .. and then the dreaded words “Would you like to read your poem, ‘Chick’, Hannah?” I couldn’t get to the off switch quickly enough and before I did I was captured by Hannah’s poem about her father, a half Chinese, half Jamaican man who had married late, and had supported his family as a professional gambler.

Here is what Bloodaxe Books writes about her:

Hannah Lowe’s first book of poems takes you on a journey round her father, a Chinese-black Jamaican migrant who disappeared at night to play cards or dice in London’s old East End to support his family, an unstable and dangerous existence that took its toll on his physical and mental health. ‘Chick’ was his gambling nickname. A shadowy figure in her childhood, Chick was only half known to her until she entered the night world of the old man as a young woman. The name is the key to poems concerned with Chick’s death, the secret history of his life in London, and her perceptions of him as a father. With London as their backdrop, Hannah Lowe’s deeply personal narrative poems are often filmic in effect and brimming with sensory detail in their evocations of childhood and coming-of-age, love and loss of love, grief and regret.

Chick opens with a powerful sequence of poems centred around the poet’s memories of her Chinese/black Jamaican father – a complex, larger than life character who came to London in the late 40s and eked out a living as, among other things, a gambler. But the book is very much more than a personal reminiscence and family history. This is a collection cross-hatched with myth and history, a hymn to London as much as to its characters. Though all the poems have a strong, vividly cinematographic line, they are also beautifully lyrical – sung stories, offering us the glimpsed lives of strangers and lovers. But however poignant and moving it may be, the collection remains doggedly celebratory of life itself, of people and place, loved and remembered. Each poem takes us a little further into the mystery of lives in a world that is as incomprehensible as it is unforgettable. This is an outstanding, unputdownable first collection’ – John Glenday.

‘Here is a poet with a commanding style; her voice is entirely her own, both rich and laconic. These are poems springing from the page with vitality, rue and insight. Her elegies are restrained and devastating. An extraordinary debut’ – Penelope Shuttle.

The poem ‘Chick’ comes about eight minutes into the video.