Am Writing… Not

I’m shocked to see that the last post on this blog was dated 8 August, which was when I was still on holiday in Canada.   I’ve now been back in England for three weeks, one spent babysitting Beloved Grandson and two working.  So, you ask, Dear Reader:

What have I written recently since my last post?  Not a lot.

What have I had published?  Two reviews on Copperfield Review (ones I’d done earlier, obviously).

What have I read?  Quite a bit.  Here’s the list:

Hollow Mountain and Shadow of the Rock – both by Thomas Mogford (Spike Sanguinetti, crime thrillers).  Despite really enjoying the fourth book in the series (Sleeping Dogs), I didn’t enjoy the first three at all, basically because they were more thriller than crime, with lots of violence and a violent and unlikeable protagonist.   Books written for he-men, methinks, whereas cosy crime is for us girls.  Fiction Fan was also writing about unlikeable protagonists in her blog this week.

Death on Lindisfarne – by Kay Sampson, also Killer’s Countdown – Wendy H Jones.  These are both Christian literature, a genre I’m very keen to get more into.  These two novels, both advertised in the Association of Christian Writers magazine as ‘crime fiction’, were very different from each other.  Death on Lindisfarne, the second in the Aidan Mysteries series, was much as I expected, featuring Christian people and set against a backdrop of Lindisfarne Isle and northern saints, although it wasn’t in any way preachy.  Interesting for me as a hopeful Christian writer was that it tackled some difficult issues, such as abuse in children’s homes, abusive relationships and how we sometimes make assumptions about people which turn out to be hurtful.  On the other hand, Killer’s Countdown  seemed, initially, to be  mainstream crime fiction, with no direct mention of God and only one short prayer towards the end.  DI Shona McKenzie and her team must’ve eaten enough sugar and fat for the whole of Scotland, and she was a grumpy old thing, but I rather enjoyed her grumpiness, as I think I would have been grumpy in her place.  However, she still had time to talk to Auld Jock, the tramp.  This was Christian literature in a different way, understated, about a principled and honest woman, living a Christian life as a matter of course.

Go Set A Watchman – by Harper Lee.

When I said I’d written ‘not a lot’, I didn’t mean nothing at all, just one review, of Go Set a Watchman, which I have subbed.  What a hornets’ nest!  Every reviewer has rubbished it… but I’m not going to.  I cannot repeat my review here but, in my opinion, Go Set A Watchman is more difficult and more honest than To Kill a Mockingbird, and all those who have screamed ‘Atticus is a racist’ all over Facebook are just not getting it.

What else?  I’ve installed Windows 10 on my computer and also the Kindle app, which is a boon when you’re looking for quotes for a book review.

And I’ve lost the Fitbit, probably whilst taking Beloved Grandson on a miniature railway.  Do I miss it, Dear Reader?  Actually, no.

Hope to have something more positive next time.  I was supposed to have retired last Friday (27 August), but my line manager asked me to stay on for another two weeks.  However, I should definitely be off the leash on Friday, 11 September.  I cannot go on Twitter at #amwriting yet though.

Meanwhile, has anyone any ideas about how to write with a cat sitting on my knee between me and the keyboard? Cat sitting on writer's knee. She’s fine when she’s still, but she fidgets and takes ages to settle.



Review of ‘The Uncommon Reader’ by Alan Bennett

Book available from Macmillan.

Having rubbished Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys about a year ago, when I read the play and went to see it at the theatre, I was dismayed when my lovely aunt in Canada pressed a copy of Bennett’s ‘The Uncommon Reader’ into my hands, saying how much she had enjoyed it. However, I could see that it was a slim volume (124 paMasonic Hall at Fort Edmontonges), and I am on holiday.

“You don’t read proper books,” said my One and Only Husband, when I started reading. True, darling, true, I don’t normally, and one of our jobs on my retirement will be to clear out the many paperbacks which we have both read 10, 20, and many more, years ago and which we will never read again. We will have to offload them on to unwilling charity shop, who will probably send them to be pulped. This is the main reason I read everything on Kindle. Btw… Ssh…over this holiday One and Only has started reading from the Kindle app on his iPad.

Back to ‘The Uncommon Reader’. The premise of this short novella (first published 2006) is that our Queen (Queen Elizabeth II) gets into readinRose hips In Wild Rose Countryg in a big way, thereby neglecting her royal duties, also acquiring insights into political matters on which she had normally been prepared to accept the advice of politicians and courtiers. The story starts well with the royal corgis running into a mobile library van in the grounds of Buckingham Palace and HMQ taking out a book by Ivy Compton-Burnett just to be polite. The best parts of it concern the machinations of equerries and civil servants, jostling for position between themselves, but all determined to nip the Queen’s new hobby into the bud, for no better reason than that she had never read much before and they were used to her old ways. Other members of the Royal Family don’t figure much, except for occasional short appearances by Prince Philip who is depicted – guess how? – as a grumpy old man. (No surprises there, then.) The end of the book was enigmatic. I think I understand it.

I always have reservations about fiction which includes real people, especially people who are still alive and when they have major roles. Sue Townsend’s short, supposedly humorous, work, ‘The Queen and I’, in which the Royal Family were turfed out of its palaces and put on a council estate in Leicester, was similar, but not at all funny, merely a whinge by someone who resented the Royals having more than she did. Bennett, however, wrote about HMQ witWigwam at Fort Edmonton h gentle sympathetic humour (nothing laugh-out-loud), intimating that the Queen was wiser than those around her. He developed for her a character of his own, which may or may not be accurate, but was gentle and respectful – yes, I know, an unusual adjective for a twenty-first century author – but all the more effective for it.

Bennett’s English style, btw, is not vivid or parChurch at Fort Edmontonticularly fluent and on occasions it jarred. For instance, this is the opening sentence. ‘At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber’. His style was wordy, with lots of long sentences, joined by ‘and’. Get that past your writing circle!

So what did I say to my lovely aunt this morning when I gave the book back? She’s a very direct lady, who doesn’t do flannel but does do plain speaking. I told her unequivocally that I enjoyed it.

The photos are of Canada, nothing at all to do with Alan Bennett of ‘The Uncommon Reader’.


Forever Anne of Prince Edward Island

Confederacy BridgeWhen we started planning our holiday in Canada, I knew that, this time, we had to go to Prince Edward Island.  We have visited Auntie Mary in Edmonton (in the West) twice already, but I found myself saying to The One and Only Husband, “…wouldn’t it be nice to see the East as well.  You know, Nova Scotia… Halifax… And…. Ooh… We could go to Prince Edward Island.  They’ve built a bridge now, you know.”

“Why?”  asked One and Only.

Why indeed?

Auntie Mary was not encouraging.  “Well, you could go to PEI if you like…  Yep, you go there and see what you think of it.”  I knew what she was getting at.  The existence of The Shining Waters Family Fun Park, which I’d seen advertised on the Internet, was surely enough to put off anyone over ten years old. 

However, last Friday lunchtime saw us driving over the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick into PEI then eating lunch in Tim Horton’s diner in Summerside, thinking about how to spend our afternoon.    One and Only was all for going to the Anne of Green Gables museum at Park Corner immediately, so as to get-it-over-with, I think.  So we did.  Dear Reader, this was no theme park.  Think National Trust, without the tea room.  This was no children’s thing.  In fact, its clientele were all (except for One and Only) middle aged women, quietly and respectfully walking from room to room,  looking at the first edition books on the shelves, perusing mounted letters and photographs.  The setting was idyllic, with the real Lake of Shining Waters in the grounds of the museum.

It was so moving I nearly cried.  I found my eyes brimming with tears, one if those truly heart-stopping moments which are so unbearably intense you want them to end.  Yes, I know it was all fiction and none of it really happened, you know, but  L M Montgomery’s Anne Shirley, along with the Elinor Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School, and Enid Blyton’s stories , had formed a huge part of my reading childhood.  Also my mother had recommended Anne of Green Gables to me (as she had the Chalet School) and I had, unconsciously imbibed and internalised L M Montgomery’s outlook on life, loving, homely, grounded and – in spite of her sad start in life – upbeat.

The most poignant exhibits were a letter in which Lucy Maud recalled a meeting with someone who had known her mother ( who had died when she was 22 months old) and another letter in which she thanked a nephew for sending her $10 as, apparently, she earned very little from her books.  In one of her diary pages on display, she recounts how she wrote the first chapter of Anne of Green Gables, the one where Mrs Rachel Lynde sees Matthew Cuthbert go out in his pony and trap, how the words just came to her, as she sat at the kitchen table in the evening sunshine.  I believe her.

(Will include photos later.  They are on my iPhone and I’m writing this on the iPad.  I’m writing this post using the Internet facilities on Westjet and we’re about to land in Edmonton.  Hope to include photos soon.)