Lucy Thackeray in Bike (photo: Adrian Harris)

Lucy Thackeray in Bike (photo: Adrian Harris)

There is often a sense of loss when a production finishes. The ephemeral nature of theatre tends to be praised more by the people whose participation in the production is for a few short weeks, rather than the writer who has been sweating over their script for months, years perhaps. So much effort, and all for a couple of weeks. The high you feel when a production is going well, can quickly crash into despondency once it’s all over. For most writers there will inevitably be a gap before their next production, or even a sense of panic that there is nothing else lined up, a blank vista that goes on into eternity; I may never be produced again.

As much as I would love to promise you will, you will, nothing is for certain these days. If you are doing well enough to get produced now, it is likely that you will be produced again. If you have managed to write a good play before, it is likely that you will write another one in the future, no matter how devoid of inspiration you’re feeling right now.

This time around with Bike, I’ve been so busy with non-theatre, real life stuff that perhaps the high wasn’t as high as it should normally be. Too many distractions, too far to travel, rehearsals during the school holidays, illness, school applications – it’s all combined to keep me busy and stopped me from pouring all of my focus into the production. The production itself has been an easy process – the entire team have been wonderful and supportive, making it a no-brainer for me; I didn’t have to worry about what might be going on in rehearsals while I wasn’t there. Although we joked about the tap-dancing routine and the dream sequence, there was no attempt to crowbar in anything that didn’t fit, nor to shear off great chunks of text in order to more closely follow someone else’s vision. Heck, I even got to keep the interval – unheard of in a studio! It’s all been lovely. At first I was frustrated that I couldn’t give it more attention, that the stresses of real life were getting in the way, distracting me. Then I realised that actually, the production itself was the distraction from “real life,” something to just enjoy no matter how much nor how little I could be present for it. Hearing some of the amazing feedback from audiences and staff, emails from strangers telling me how much they loved it, that was the apple a day needed to pull me through the rest. So nice to hear good news once in a while. Nice is a crap word: uplifting, then.

So, no big crash this time around. Hugs all round at the final performance, a general agreement that we’d like to tour the show if possible, then walking out into the night with a good friend and a slight pang as the doors shut behind me. A gentle day at home the next day, then back into reality. An acceptance that my mind isn’t capable of delivering a masterpiece while so much else is going on – my mind isn’t really capable of producing an accurate shopping list right now. A season for all things, as the Bible has it, and inside my head it’s currently the season of small things. More blogging though, perhaps. In a small way. Little postcards from the quiet place I’m trying to create, protect, cherish at the moment. Let’s head gently towards the end of the year.


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Very very hard not to go around the theatre photographing Every. Single. Poster.

Very very hard not to go around the theatre photographing Every. Single. Poster.

After bigging up everyone else’s projects I have of course entirely neglected to mention my own: Bike opens at Salisbury Playhouse on Weds 7th October and runs until the 17th. Directed by Ria Parry, who also managed to nip off and rehearse Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern*  for Out of Joint at the same time, and who has rather lovely feet. Seriously. I have foot envy. Starring Lucy Thackeray who has also been hard at work in the Main House production of Fallen Angels at the same time, a one-woman rep company. I haven’t seen her feet, so no comment, but if I’m going to build my own Frankensteinish dream body for myself, I’m stealing her hair.

It’s been fantastic to see the script coming to life in the rehearsal room and to watch Lucy begin to inhabit the character and make her her own. Enjoying too the stretch into Proper Theatre – the number of people involved in bringing the script to the stage. Although Bike is fairly low budget as theatre goes, there’s an assistant director, a stage manager, sound designer, lighting designer, marketing department etc etc. I haven’t been required to turn up to the dress rehearsal lugging my own furniture and costumes – trust me, this is a novelty!

There’s more to be said about rehearsals, revisiting a script, how it all happened, etc, but right now it’s late and there are other things to be written for other people, and evidently I can’t be trusted to write anything more without sounding like I have a foot fetish or am about to attack the talent with a large pair of scissors in a freakish hair-shearing frenzy. So I’ll shut up for now in the hope of being more eloquent later…

It’s going to be good. Do come and see it.

More info and booking here.

*See? Even when trying to promote my own play, I still end up publicizing someone else’s!

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The Stick House

stick houseNext up on my list of recommendations is the Raucous production of The Stick House, buried under Bristol’s Temple Meads station between 11th Sept – 17th Oct, with cheaper preview tickets available from 7th Sep. Bristol Old Vic’s Sharon Clark is the powerhouse behind this one, and I was lucky enough to see an experimental showing of it a while back, in a freezing cold church crypt. There’s a blend here of new, immersive digital techniques combined with a big dose of proper story and more than a whiff of fairy tale. Worth seeing, I suspect, it promises to be visually exciting, highly original and carrying buckets of that good old theatre magic. Only in an entirely new way, obviously. I’ll shut up.

The production is gathering plenty of press, find out more here;

Bristol Post – scroll down, the article is longer than the one paragraph it appears to be!

Bristol 24/7

Blummin David Lane again – yes, we’re officially stalking each other – but a good interview with Sharon about balancing the relationship between writing and technology.

This is nicked from their website, as it’s a wee bit exciting and I love how story is foregrounded in their process;

We work together to forge new ideas, new creative relationships and new methods in our approach to re-shaping and re-imagining what theatre can be.

And to do that we explore how each beat of the story can be delivered in the most immediate way – whether that be by, say, smell, live action, directional sound, wearable technology or music. However, the story is always the thing – it drives every decision we make and every direction we take.

Because ultimately, there’s not much point in faffing around with new technologies and toys if the story is just pants. We’ve all sat through that one before, and it’s not pleasant. It’s like one of those devised student productions, which contains plenty of moments but doesn’t really make sense on any level, and leaves you wishing they’d hired a writer/dramaturg. I don’t want cleverness for the sake of it, I want the satisfaction of a damn good story, well told.

I’ll be going, and not just because I’m scared that Sharon will punch me if I don’t, although I suspect a fair few tickets will be sold on that basis alone. It’s been a huge project and I’m looking forward to seeing the end results – it’s one of those productions where you can’t quite picture how it’s going to turn out, but in a good way. It promises to be surprising, in other words, which is a lush thing to anticipate when you’re buying a ticket.

Go here for more details and booking, and a bit of a look-see as to what they’ve been up to.

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And Then Come The Nightjars

Jealous? Moi?

Jealous? Moi?

Remember Bea Roberts? Not content with single-handedly inventing an entirely new form of theatre with her play Infinity Pool, she also quietly got on with jointly winning the inaugural Theatre503 New Playwriting Competition. As a result her play And Then Come the Nightjars will show at Theatre 503 before heading to Bristol Old Vic. The play has also been published by Nick Hern books – I’m surely not alone in experiencing massive amounts of envy at the thought of this? Just me? Ach, envy’s a good thing, it shows you which direction to head in. It’s jealousy we need to be careful of.

I don’t normally give out recommendations, mainly because 1) by the time I get round to booking a ticket it’s usually the last night and too late to recommend it to anyone else and 2) God knows I barely get out of the house these days so there’s not much to recommend. But I’m going to recommend Nightjars, and I’ll be making the effort to see it myself. Not just because Bea is a good friend of mine, but because I’ve seen the journey that this play has been on, from an early reading back at BOV’s Ferment many moons ago, to later being asked to read a much-changed, much-developed*, much-improved version of the play – the version that has won the award – and knowing just how much work Bea has put into it and how well-crafted it has emerged from the process. I’m often asked for my opinion on a friend’s script, and hand on heart, this is the only time that I’ve ever said to the writer Don’t change a word.

It’s that good. So if you can’t make it to the production, it’s well worth investing in a copy of the play to read. Happily, it’s a play that has beaten the odds – as the copy states;

Set against the backdrop of the Foot and Mouth pandemic, And Then Come The Nightjars charts the struggle of one farm amidst a crisis that saw the slaughter of 4 million animals and the postponement of a general election. Bea Roberts’ play is a story of enduring friendship and a requiem for rural England.

In other words – it’s not a play about feral kids struggling to survive in a climate of neglect and abuse, nor three twenty-somethings betraying each other in a flat in London. She’s only gone and managed to buck the trend, people. There’s hope for us all. Book now.

*Ah yes, development. Head on over back to David Lane and read this. If you’re convinced that anyone and everyone that utters the word development is a hell-bound demon intent on scamming you, then you’re not going to get anywhere, basically. Plays need working on, otherwise they’re not good enough. There are people who will help you make your play better. Some of those people work in theatres and get paid a salary to help make your play better, but frankly your play will need work before it’s good enough to send to them.  The other people who will help you out have to eat and pay rent, therefore they need paying for their time. Deal with it. We writers keep insisting that we shouldn’t have to work for free, so why should dramaturgs? It’s like anything in life – you can decorate your house yourself, or even get friends to offer colour suggestions, but it’s not going to look anything like as good as it would if you hired an interior designer and a team of professional decorators. The trick is hiring the right person, and not the person who is going to do this all over your play.

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If you could do with a bit of dramaturgy in the foreseeable future, then take a look at David Lane’s Playpens scheme. I’m not affiliated to him in any way but might well badger him to buy me a pint if I drive people his way. Questions you might want to ask at this point;

  • Who is David Lane?
  • Is he any good?
  • Can he help me?
  • What the effing chuck is a dramaturg anyway?

David is a playwright, dramaturg and educator, ridiculously intelligent but ridiculously nice along with it. He’s put in a crazy amount of effort on a voluntary basis to support other writers over the years, including running the Theatre Writing South West network. He’s given me incredibly valuable feedback on my plays in the past and is excellent at nudging writers into a deeper understanding of just what the heck it is that you’re actually trying to write. I won a decent amount of script development with him for the very first play I wrote, through the Dialogue competition at Salisbury Playhouse – I went into those sessions a complete newbie, knowing nothing about playwriting other than that I’d like to have a go at it. I came out knowing a bit more. Okay, a lot more. Alright, in the interests of full disclosure, David has managed to teach me a shitload about playwriting. And if he can help me, he can help you. Trust me on that.

Sometimes when you’re writing a script, it feels as if you’re lost in the forest and can’t see the wood for the trees. Sorry for the tired metaphor, but that’s how it is, plus it’s almost midnight as I’m writing this, so what do you expect? Working with David felt as if I was being lifted up out of the forest so that I could look down and actually start to see what was going on beneath me. I’ll drop the metaphor at this point before I start talking about squirrels and pixies and how I actually fell in love with a Silver Birch this one time. Anyhoo. There’s a lot of guff talked about script development, with development being spat out with the same amount of distaste that people lend to the phrase political correctness. Here’s the thing; if you can remember the blatant racism and sexism of primetime TV and famous comedians of the 1970s and 80s, you’ll know that political correctness was entirely necessary to start putting things right. And if you could see your script with an entirely objective eye, you’d definitely dig out your Paypal password and get Lane on the case so that you could Put Things Right. Or just Make Things Better. Or perhaps Make Your Play Shithot in a Less Shit and More Hot Kind of Way. All of those plays that make it into the theatre? They had development. Trust me; your play is unlikely to meet the requisite standard without it. Working with someone like David means that he’ll help you to write the play that you actually want to write, rather than pushing you into writing what he would write/wants you to write/thinks you should write etc.

And as for what a dramaturg actually is, well it’s a… it’s one of those – you know, like one of those things, only with plays. A bit like that attachment that came with your hoover. But in theatre. Glad to have cleared that up for everyone.

He’s good. Hire him.

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Tiny Sacred Chapels


…I think of how we all at some age, come to have knowings now of tiny sacred chapels, often placed into our hearts when we had even the most brief exchange of words and kindness from souls who are daily practicing their consecrations – not only their vows – but their longings and understandings of the sacred light that illuminates everything.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes – Untie the Strong Woman

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Dandelion Eyes

So I was tired. Bone-weary. After falling asleep over my laptop several times, I gave in. Nothing was going to be achieved today: not the computer stuff, not the house stuff, zilch.

Take a walk.

When you’re bone-weary tired, taking a walk seems counter-intuitive – slumping on the sofa feels more appropriate. But this was a Soul-Whisper. One of those prompts from the deepest, wisest part of your being; the part of you that hesitates over purchasing the giant-sized bar of Galaxy Caramel as you tell yourself that you’ll make it last all month so at that price it’s daft not to. Yeah right, whispers your Wise Being, knowing that you’ll likely have troughed through a good three quarters of it before bedtime. Put it down and buy some kale, you know it makes sense.

A Soul-Whisper, then, from a Soul shaken by the events of the week. So – sod it – I went for a walk along the river.

Back in the Autumn, on the course at Schumacher College, we discussed the difference between Wilderness and Wildness. Wilderness, we were told, is in short supply to most of us in the UK. Wildness, however, is everywhere – don’t be size-ist about it. Try to develop a relationship with a patch of wildness in your area, it helps.

Secret garden in a car park/waste ground.

Secret garden in a car park/waste ground.

My daughter hates the curtains that were hung in her bedroom a couple of months ago, without prior consultation (hint: it wasn’t me.)

“I want dandelion yellow curtains,” she tells me, “so the sun will shine through and glow all golden.” She also described the new, beige curtains as being “fucking fucked up” in a way that I’m sure as her mother I should have reprimanded her for, if I hadn’t been too busy laughing.

Dandelion yellow. I’ve since discovered that it’s evidently not an “in” colour in the home furnishing world – you can buy ready-made curtains in pretty much any colour except yellow. Still, I was suddenly granted a different view of the weeds growing abundantly throughout my garden; that if you stop thinking weed, dandelions are beautiful. Seen through my daughter’s eyes, their fiery golden petals were dazzling in their sunlit gorgeousness. The plant radiates joy. And as for the graceful globes of their delicate seedheads; exquisite. See this display in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s What is Luxury exhibition for further proof.

Fragile Futures Concrete Chandelier by Studio Drift

Fragile Futures Concrete Chandelier by Studio Drift

Yet when we see dandelions we write them off as an ugly weed, trained as we are to see them as a sign of neglect, someone slacking off on the gardening front. What if instead we saw them as an incredibly enthusiastic wildflower? Something so brimming with joy that it can’t keep it all to itself and just has to burst forth all over the place? The Bonnie Langford of the plant world? The floral equivalent of Mad Lizzie, I’m guessing.

I know, there’s so much about joy and enthusiasm that’s incredibly unBritish, we’re far more comfortable with wry deprecation or even downright snideyness, but try to go with it. It’s summer, after all.

This, from Daniel Deardorff;

 From the perspective of civil-society, that which is not proper or normal, or accepted is deemed to evince a social or moral “disfigurement, ugliness, or crookedness.” Plants become weeds, animals become vermin, ideas become heresy and treason, and people become infidel, outcast, misbegotten. This deeming and damning perspective seems immoveable, yet many of the old stories speak to a magical shift: the loathsome beastly shape transformed by a “blessing kiss” – an act of fidelity, love and valor…

…Yet one must ask, is this magical shift a transformation of form or of perception? And is it possible that perception alone can alter form?

(Deardorff, The Other Within.)

 A blessing kiss, a child’s eyes, beginner’s mind, a fresh outlook, a walk. The power of words. What else in our world have we written off by categorising it in this way, attaching a label which falls short of the whole? (There is perhaps room here for a discussion of labelling within Special Needs, but that my friends would warrant an entire post of its own, if not an entire series.)

Not sure where the quote is from, but it's resonating deeply.

Not sure where the quote is from, but it’s resonating deeply.

As artists, as creators, as people, how can we ensure that we keep our eyes open, experiencing the world without the blinkered filters that we don’t even realise we’re wearing?

I returned from my walk out of breath, but energized. Listen to that wise voice within. Keep your eyes open. Walk. Create. See the world through dandelion eyes.

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Home, safe.


Camden. I am not worthy.

Up at 6.30am to get everyone ready and out of the house at 8. First child dropped off at Early Club at school, then the twenty mile round trip to drop off T’Other One, my eyes darting to the clock on the dashboard, aware that my train is at 9.07. The relief when I’m standing on the platform, not only on time for the train but with just enough minutes left over to buy myself a cup of tea before I board. The little details that go into making a day’s work, the arrangements and negotiations. Tickets prepaid, pre-collected to save precious minutes on the day. Oyster card. Emergency map. Making sure the kids will be picked up from school. Remembering to leave extra food out for the cats. Small bottle of water and a biscuit bar. I know there’s a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, but really? The Small Stuff is what life is chiefly made up of.

Thinking I might just have time to catch the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A for an hour before sprinting up to Camden for the auditions. Seeing that the queue for timed tickets was probably an hour long in itself and realising that my optimism catches me out at times. Optimism or over-active imagination, given that I’d pictured the hallowed halls of the esteemed museum to be empty and echoing at 11am? Tough one to call.

Camden; full on. Busy, loud, colourful, crowded. A bit too much after the open space of Dartmoor at the weekend. I’m evidently not cool enough for Camden. The auditions were at Cecil Sharp House, which sits very close to what might be Primrose Hill. I’m not rich enough for Primrose Hill. I’m generally a fish out of water wherever I land, which is perhaps why I love my sofa so very much. Also trees – they don’t tend to judge.

Of the auditions, perhaps more later. An awareness that it’s quite a daunting task – to walk into a room and face a panel of five, play the piano and perform extracts from two entirely different plays. I’m really rather glad that I’m not an actor. An awareness too, that there was a complete dearth of actresses within the desired age range, say 35-45. Younger, yes, older, yes, but a void when it came to this middle range. I’m having a lot of conversations at the moment about the impossibility of combining theatre and childcare; clearly this is something that is hitting women across the board – writers, directors and actors. We spoke of it between the auditions, acknowledging the different attitude that seems to exist when a man insists that a particular job fits in with his childcare arrangements (Ahh, what a hero, what a good father) and when a woman does it (It’s so unprofessional for her to expect everyone else to fit in with her kids.) Admitting to the team that right now I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to manage rehearsals around my kids.

As my knowledge of London is so poor, I’ve been trying to walk more whenever I’m there, so headed off confidently in the direction of Warren St when it was time to go back to Paddington. Of course, I was going in completely the wrong direction and almost at Chalk Farm before I realised. With hindsight, I chose the nicest direction, or at least the most interesting. Not quite sure if I’d left enough time to make it back to Paddington, certainly not with enough time to pick up a cuppa before getting on board. Telling myself that there should be a buffet on the train is merely another symptom of my imagination working overtime again. Passing a sign as I went from Tube to National Rail services, informing me that due to someone falling under a train, all services from Paddington had been cancelled. Thinking surely not? just as everyone else was thinking the same thing – the terminal was full of people staring at blank departures screens, queuing for information, or clutching phones to their ears as they tried to make other plans. Overhearing a member of staff ask a traveller Do you have anywhere you could stay tonight, and thinking That doesn’t sound good.

Two people died yesterday, under a train as it passed through Ealing, in front of the rush-hour commuters. As yet, no one knows exactly what happened, only that they were mother and daughter. While there are reports that staff at Ealing had to prevent commuters from taking photographs, the mood at Paddington was sombre, one of quiet acceptance. Perhaps hints that a child had died were enough to prevent any histrionics. People wrote down the suggestions of the First Great Western staff as to alternative routes, or called friends to ask for a bed for the night, or found a spot to just sit and wait until the line reopened. People sitting on the floor, against railings and walls, just calmly waiting. While the official status is that FGW trains were delayed by up to 90 minutes, which doesn’t sound too bad, hundreds of us were diverted off on journeys which took hours before reaching the intended destination – you want to go back to Marylebone, then up to Banbury, down to Oxford, over to Didcot Parkway, then Swindon, then get a train up to Gloucester or Cheltenham, the man with the ginger beard told me, not even having to look it up, such was his encyclopaedic knowledge of the UK rail system. So that’s what I did, making it home long after midnight instead of 9.30pm, and telling myself it was an adventure. But then I made it home. Two other women didn’t, and grief hangs in the air today.

Today; exhausted. Drained. My play has an actor and I’m happy with the choice. I’m falling asleep over my laptop, managing an entire paragraph that just read kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk. Dreading the school pick-up, and the fact that Scouts tonight is miles away, a 20 min drive each way rather than five minutes up the road – I’d like to be in bed by then. Is it even worth driving home in between times, or shall I sit in the pub with a strong coffee and try to stay awake? I haven’t managed the Very Important Phone Call I need to make about my Benefits; it will have to wait until tomorrow as I know I won’t be able to speak any sense. I’m about to be seen in public wearing sweatpants and no make up – it’s that kind of a day. Tonight there will be a ready-meal rather than home cooking, and the plates may well be left until tomorrow morning before reaching any washing-up liquid. But I’m alive. And if you’re reading this, then so are you.

As Mary Oliver asks, Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

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Midsummer Night’s Dream


Fingers poised above the keyboard, not sure of where to start.

Don’t give away the treasure too soon.

My second weekend in Dartmoor at the School of Myth. A weekend that has stood like a beacon, a steady light through the recent chaos, guiding me in.

Midsummer. Which of course isn’t Midsummer at all, we’re barely out of Spring but for some reason, perhaps the Solstice, the 21st is deemed to be exactly that. From now on the light begins to dim towards the Winter and yet Summer itself still stretches out before us. June is the time when Nature seems at her best, roses, peonies, poppies coming into bloom, the trees wearing their freshest green and life bursting out of the hedgerows whether in a veil of Queen Anne’s lace or the growing lambs, the fledgling chicks that mark another turn around the wheel of the year. A time of revelation. A time of magic and dreams, as Shakespeare’s play attests.

Time spent sitting in solitude up on the Moor itself. A landscape so stunning and unfamiliar to me, the unsettling experience of literally not being able to trust the ground beneath my feet as grass oozes water and my boots sink into the bog. Standing scared, scanning the ground, trying to work out where to step next, where might be safe and where I will sink – an experience which in retrospect seems a fairly accurate metaphor for my life right now (and for anyone who hasn’t yet signed up against our government’s eagerness to once again punish the poorest members of society, this time by removing Child Tax Credits, the petition is here.) Large twisted oaks that seem to grow out of the ancient granite boulders, the vibrancy of the unfurling bracken, a sky that changes from blue to grey within seconds, rain followed by sun, the breeze which rustles the leaves, the constancy of the stream splashing past. Fingers stroking the luxuriant moss that cushions the thick bark, sensual, like caressing a man’s chest.

Most of us do not spend enough time outdoors.

Even during my reverie I find myself wishing that our leaders spent more time sitting under great trees, simply listening, observing. Beholding. There has been much talk at the School of sorcery, of hearts buried beneath the ice, of what happens when power is separated from heart. There are a lot of sorcerers in Westminster, I think.

Saturday evening – the beauty of a meal that I haven’t had to plan and cook, a meal spent deep in conversation, ideas flowing around the table. The joy of this being a group which understands the importance of pudding. Tables and chairs shifted out of the way while fellow students came forward to tell stories and sing songs, some confident, some willing to share their nervousness in a way which felt like a generous gift.


Then, when it should be over, the door opened to reveal the Green Man – two green men, bedecked in ivy and branches, unrecognisable, leading us outside. Grabbing glasses and coats we made our way outside, where the path was lined with flickering tealights, the campfire blazing and – most wondrous – the rough outdoor shelter hung with drapes and a sequinned backdrop which glittered in the candlelight like a thousand stars, a magical theatre for this one night. Two lanterns hung centre stage, more tealights grouped like footlights in the grass below, ready for Titania and Bottom to make their appearance, for a few of us primed beforehand to emerge, clutching love poems to read to the waiting audience while the tabla and flute played alongside us. If I live to be a hundred, I doubt I will experience anything quite so magical again. I wish I had a picture to show for it, but magic is notoriously difficult to photograph, and mobile phones and selfies completely out of place for such events. It was the perfect Midsummer celebration, the kind of thing your heart secretly longs for, glimpsed occasionally in novels and films and beautiful set design.

Fire. Wine. Whisky. Good company. Celebration. Whatever else might be going on, there is always something to celebrate. Always something to appreciate, to give thanks for.

It was apparently 3am by the time I got to my bed. As I showered this morning, I could smell the woodsmoke being rinsed out of my hair. The return can be hard.

Perhaps you celebrated the Solstice, or Midsummer itself. Perhaps not. But let’s not get too hung up about calendar dates here, or whether we’ve missed it. There’s always time. This weekend I’m determined to have friends around; food, wine, a bonfire if it’s not raining. I don’t do formal dinner parties, have no interest in trying to impress my guests with canapes and souffle or my ability to match the perfect wine with each course. Simple and tasty is fine; this is about gathering together with people you love. Or even just getting to know your neighbours a little better. Make an agreement that on this night, the shit will be left at the garden gate – this is not a night to argue over politics or complain about your Ex; bring a handful of poems if needs be, just to make sure. Make it a night of delight. There’s enough in life that’s hard, that’s stressful, enough time needed to be set aside for grieving, for struggling, for just-about-coping. Choose one night, soon, the sooner the better and dedicate it to pleasure, to magic, to love. To life.

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The Circus this weekend. Not easy at all.

The Circus this weekend. Not easy at all.

The Beeb repeated The Most Beautiful Man in the World last month, I had no idea until I received an email from a complete stranger praising it. Which means I presumably have to do something about chasing up the repeat fees, I guess. Anyway, the link is here if you haven’t heard it and want to catch it – next 5 days only.

I’ve just read the same story (read? performed?) myself for the first time at the weekend, at the Stories for Grown Ups event at No.23 Bistro, in Stroud. It’s a new idea being tried out by Alex, the bistro’s owner, holding a short story evening every couple of months; two writers reading a few stories, a guest spot for a member of the audience, food, drink and general conviviality. I had a lush time, anyway, and that’s without drinking. Unfortunately my child-minding plans fell through on the day, resulting in having to bring my 10 year old along. It could have been tricky, given that the evening was supposedly for Grown Ups, but she behaved impeccably and seemed to even enjoy it. She enjoyed tucking into my free meal, anyway. The food was gorgeous – that might be enough to tempt me along next time, never mind the stories. Philip Douch is hosting the events, next writer up is John Holland, the Stroud Short Stories organizer, on the 9th August.

I’d been giving myself considerable angst about writing a couple of new stories for the event, before finally admitting to myself that it wasn’t going to happen in time, and turning up with what I’d already got. Even then I changed my setlist midway through, more to feel rock and roll than anything else. I rock. I’ll read what I want. Still, another valuable lesson in going with the flow and not stressing out too much beforehand. Sometimes we start repeating the story in our heads – must write new stuff for relatively small local event, must write new stuff – without stopping to question whether that story is in fact true, or just you know, a nice idea, a guilt complex, rampant perfectionism etc etc. Reading what I already had worked just fine. More than fine. Worked out pretty damn good. A few useful questions to ask;

  • Do I really need to do this?
  • Is there an easier way?
  • How can I make life easier for myself?
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