Reluctant readers 2

I wrote recently about my books for reluctant readers, those young people who can read very well, but choose not to do so. I’m hoping they will be published in early summer, so excited!

The first book I wrote which I used with my students was ‘Run, Blue, Run’ about a lad who found himself pursued by three men in black; he goes on the run with his best friend Netta  a girl from a privileged background, very differnt from Blue;’s poverty-stricken life in a mobile home.

My second book had a girl as the main character, Jo-Jo, who found that she and her family were being threatened, possibly because of something she had witnessed in the back yard of her parents’ pub. An arson attack on the pub forces her to take drastic action. The book is called ‘Screaming King Harry’ and here is the first chapter:

Chapter One

You would think it would be difficult to concentrate on listening when someone is screaming their head off.

It might be difficult to concentrate when that someone is lying on the floor holding their hand and screaming.

It was Mr King lying on the floor and the reason he was lying on the floor was that he had two broken legs. That was enough to make anyone scream; but Mr King was holding his hand because it had been shot clean through.

I’m not joking now.

Mr King, Head of English at St Finbarr’s High had been shot through the hand. This was after he’d had his legs broken.


But let me go back to the beginning. Let me tell you how it started. Let me tell you about Mr King, King Harry as he was called.

Everyone loved King Harry everyone except me.

His name was Henry King and when he first met a class he would say “Hiya, I’m Henry King, your new English teacher. They call me Harry King, but you can call me King Harry,” then he would laugh “Or Your Majesty, if you prefer.”

Everyone thought he was really great, all the girls fancied him, all the boys wanted to be him. He was a great teacher, but he was a real ‘I am’ – and I couldn’t stand him.

I though he was ok at first but then something happened which changed that.

My mum and dad have a pub; it’s a good pub. There’s never any trouble; there’s never any trouble because my dad Shane makes sure there isn’t any trouble. He’s very strict on who goes in, no-one under eighteen gets served no matter how old they look he can always tell when they’re under age. Absolutely no drugs, and he gets no trouble.

Also the pubis right next to the police station and is always full of the Law.

King Harry came in one night; he’d never been in before.

“Lesley-Anne!” he says.

Well, that got right up my nose. No-one calls me that, not even my mum Bev calls me that. Everyone calls me Jo-Jo, don’t ask why, it’s a long story.

King Harry wanted to sit down and chat but I was busy. I wait on, serve the food, and I had a lot of work to do. I didn’t pay much attention to him and later on it was quiet and I noticed he was gone.

“Someone’s been sick in the yard!” dad called to me so I got a mop and bucket and went through.

I’d forgotten the rubber gloves so I had to go back to get them.

I went back to the yard, pushed the door open and walked straight in on King Harry.

There was another man standing by the empty crates. The man had a great stack of money in his hand and King Harry had a package in brown paper which he was either giving to or taking from the man.

I walked straight back out but it was too late. King Harry had seen me.


The Ship… again!

What a very nice pub the Ship is. We are so lucky to have two really good pubs in out village, they both are well kept by excellent landlords and landladies, they both keep their beer well, they both serve really decent food, they both have a lovely welcoming atmosphere to any visitors or newcomers…

We went to the quiz at the Ship, which is very different from the one we usually go to at the Dolphin. The Ship has six rounds including a picture round, and one set by the landlord, Wayne, and it also has a picture round. There must have been about a dozen teams, and we came about sixth at the end, having really enjoyed ourselves, had a lot, a lot of laughs, and drunk some fine beer.

The beer was Bluestone, a Welsh beer; I was delighted to drink it for two reasons. One because I love beer, two because Wales used not to have great breweries… I am so pleased good brewing is alive and thriving in Wales. The name bluestone may ring a bell with some people because of the bluestones at Stonehenge, huge megaliths which were somehow transported from quarries in Wales in prehistoric times… what engineers those so called primitive people were!



‘I’ve never seen Starwars’ – first time for everything!

I posted recently about a programme on the radio where celebrities try something for the first time which most people have done… I made a list of things I’ve never done which most people have – I’m not going to be able to complete it,even if I set myself the challenge because some things are expensive, going to Turkey for example, or staying in a gîte in France, or having a massage… but some for the things I know I will try, reading ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ for example!

As I was writing the post I thought about what I had done recently which many people will think ordinary or common place… or things which I was delighted and thrilled to do for the first time:

visited iceland

visited Iceland

stayed in Glasgow

stayed in Glasgow

tried some good tequila

tried some good tequila

had a long conversation with Eddie Perez

had a long conversation with Eddie Perez

made piccalili

made piccalilli

published four novels

published four novels

started my blog

started my blog

made cheese

made cheese

discovered the wonderful world of lichen

discovered the wonderful world of lichen

…oh and sat down and talked to Raul Malo

At last the wrens have nested In the hollows of his arches, in a house that will not last

Sometimes a poem grasp you from the first line… you read on and sometimes you are disappointed, but sometimes, you are not. How could anyone be disappointed with what follows Joseph Fasano’s first line?


At last the wrens have nested
In the hollows
Of his arches, in a house
That will not last.  What’s wild
Has come to find him, and our sad,
Unhouseled father, whose hands
Can’t hold their labor, has hobbled to his windows
To lift his fading
Language, like silt
From out his rivers, like those fists
Of empty bridles, in a prayer
That he has practiced—for order,
For dominion, as he once kept stallions
Still.  All fall I’ve cursed the hours
Of carrying his body
Through these rooms
Where illness thins him, in the places
He has knelt in, where I swore
I never would.  But today, in bare
Exhaustion, I bowed down
By his waters, and felt a body drifting
Through the shadows
Of my body, through cairns 
Of ancient pyres, through the burdock’s 
Twisted folds.  Like the silence
After family, like the rust
Across its voices, it stooped to kiss the winter
Work had written
In my shoulders, it sniffed
My salted hair.  O I knew
It hadn’t come.  But tell me, 
Now, I whispered, between this water
And this fire, this rest
And worldly labor, in which way
Am I wanted, will you tell me
Where to go?  And with love, and sudden
Wonder, as though it had been
Waiting, the silent thing behind me whispered
No and no and no.
by Joseph Fasano

Word of the day… lambent

I think lambent sounds such a lovely word, I’m sure I must have used it in my writing somewhere, but I can’t quote it to you right now. Lambent means  a glow, or soft radiance, a flickering light, like moonlight, or candlelight  something romantic and gentle and pleasant. A lambent wit is gentle kind fun, a playful sense of humour, not sarcastic or caustic or cynical. Lambent can mean moving swiftly and lightly over something, again like light or flame or maybe an expression across a face?

The word comes from Latin as you might guess if you ever studied it (I did and failed dismally); lambere means to lick, or maybe to lap… the moonlight lapping the surface of the water, the candlelight lapping the edges of the darkness…

The Green Olive… you have to visit!

Sometimes you come across a place which is just really perfect; such a place is the Green Olive, a lovely restaurant beside the River Parrett in Bridgwater. We drifted in one lunchtime – drifted into the restaurant, not the River Parrett, and it was a cool, calm, peaceful place. A waitress stood at the back by the bar chatting to a couple of people but as soon as we stepped in the door she glanced at us with a welcoming smile.

It was nearly empty apart from another couple as it was rather late, but even so, there was a pleasant atmosphere, a comfortable atmosphere. As soon as we had sat, the waitress came over with menus and olives… mmm, Ilike this place already! We ordered drinks and then had the difficult decision of what to chose from the mouth-watering selection on offer. For example, the cold meze selection included patlican soslu –    fried aubergine, with tomatoes, peppers, garlic and herbs,   kisir  –  couscous salad with spices and herbs,   –  rice stuffed vine leaves  with herbs and pine kernel, pilaki –  Turkish brown beans with carrots,  onion, green peppers and garlic, and chicken meze with  green pepper, onion,  parsley, vegetable oil, steamed chicken and lemon juice. There were some delicious sounding hot meze, including grilled haloumi, borek – those yummy little filo pastries stuffed with fetta cheese  and spinach, and sucuk izgara which is a spicy sausage, and then my husband’s choice of  arnavut ciger   fried lamb liver with red onion & parsley & salad. I just had to go for the mixed meze as I couldn’t decide!

Our first impressions of a lovely place were confirmed by the lovely food which arrived quickly but without us feeling hurried because it was so late. Our lunch continued with kebabs and yummy accompaniments. Everything looked beautiful, and everything tasted beautiful, and when I suddenly had an annoying cough because I swallowed an olive, a glass of iced water magically appeared on the table for me.

If you ever go to Bridgwater… go and visit the Green Olive… you’ll have a fabulous meal!

bridgy feb (2)

Looking across the river to the restaurant, next to the blue building

Tim’s inspiration

As I mentioned a while ago, Tim, a friend I met on my urban retreat recommended a new poet to me, someone he found inspiring. He recommended Mary Oliver to me, a wonderful poet who now lives very privately in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Mary Oliver’s work is full of references to the natural world, and ‘nature’ has a potent and respected influence on her. She must be a most keen observer of wild-life, of natural light, and seasons’  change, and her poetry is threaded through with references, and observations of little things as well as the grand.

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver ~