Other People’s Stories

I went out for a writing session today, looking for an hour of different scenery to refresh my mind.  My writing buddy unfortunately couldn’t make it so I took my husband along.  We both had projects to work on so it made sense to do it together.

But instead of writing, we started talking to people, and that talking led to more talking, and soon we were due to head back home without ever taking our notebooks out.

It could have been a wasted evening, but talking to people, learning their stories and sharing anecdotes was a joy.

Recently I sent two poems to a cousin of mine – one biographical and one autobiographical. I have been thinking about writing more in that style, as a counterpart to the more political pieces, and listening to funny stories and observations today made me decide to do it.

Everyone’s experience of life is unique and we all have a share of emotions and expectations. What better way to celebrate our shared humanity than immortalising moments in poetry, sharing them like gifts?

The next few months I just need to convince a few people to share moments that made them, them, and produce something that captures who they are.

No pressure!

Happy writing,



I didn’t know what to read next, when I was choosing my new book.  I have piles upon piles waiting for me, including some I have borrowed and need to return.  But it’s too hot to think too much, so I finally decided on another Margaret Atwood.  It’s not a dystopian future so that’s a change, at least!

What I wanted was a holiday read: a book I knew I would enjoy reading, that I could read fairly quickly but was a bit more complex than an airport book, if you know what I mean.  This is a pick for the reader me, more than the writer me.

I will let you know how it’s worked when I finish!

Happy reading,



Getting Together

As you will know by now, I am a fan of Margaret Atwood.  I first read her work in school when I studied The Handmaid’s Tale and have been reading and re-reading her work ever since.

When I saw that The Handmaid’s Tale was being televised I knew I had to watch.

It’s brutal, but it’s a reminder how easily we can lose hard-won freedoms.  Giving up a few freedoms here and there in the name of security from terror may seem a small price to pay but the problem is that you don’t know where it stops, and if it ever will.

This weekend, another response to terror was put forward: The Great Get Together.  This was a series of linked community events across the country, with the aim of encouraging friendliness and social cohesion. It was a celebration for Jo Cox, an MP murdered last year.

Focussing on what is good, I made my way to our local event, and it was lovely.  The sun was shining, there was a great spread, lots of people to talk with and it was a very positive way to spend an afternoon.

It was the kind of event I could imagine reading about in a chirpy romance or a 1950’s comedian the style of The Darling Buds of May. It was delightfully countrified!

I am working on a poem for next week’s writing group but I definitely want to revisit yesterday’s mix of nostalgia and reality in some way. Treating it as some sort of stand against oppression will be a challenge, but there’s no point making like too easy for myself.

That’s all for tonight. Have a safe and happy couple of days and I will be back on Tuesday.

Happy writing,





Last week I went to a private viewing at a small gallery.  My friend, the artist, also read some of his poetry during the event.

It’s always interesting to hear work by others but I do come away a little embarrassed that in the time I have known him he’s published 3 books, and I have not!

That’s why this post is titled ‘just write’: it’s a reminder. There’s no point worrying what other people are doing, you have to focus on your own work. You just have to get the words down.

I am working on something now, and I will give all my writing attention to that.  It’s far more constructive!

Give yourselves the time and space to write, it’s the best gift possible.

Happy writing,



This week I finished Margaret Atwood’s trilogy, with MaddAddam.  I will try to be concise, but I could write about this one for a while!

MaddAddam, like Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, tells the story of how people existed before and after the plague which wipes out most humans.  At its heart are love stories – Toby and Zeb, survivors of the God’s Gardeners; Zeb and his brother Adam, and Toby and Blackbeard, Craker and student.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It filled in some of the blanks left earlier in the series – such as the reason Zeb was involved with the God’s Gardeners and his relationship with the Adams and Eves, how Crake got the original plague data, what happened to his parents and so on.

More importantly though, it took the story onward.  The disparate group of surviving humans started to develop a new society, with the Crakers as part of it.  People started to hope and plan again.  Toby’s friendship with the curious Craker child Blackbeard showed that however Crake had engineered the humanoids, he couldn’t remove their curiosity and desire to know and understand.

From this friendship, Toby started to believe in a future for humans, and Crakers, that would have been impossible at the start of the series.

I think that is the theme of the book: we can’t foresee the outcome of our actions.  The Crakers were specifically created not to have religious tendencies, for example, but Oryx and Crake were their deities, and the reason for their faith in the world around them.  Zeb chose how to extricate himself from his corrupt father without realising his choice would lead him to bioterrorism and into the path of the world-ending Crake.

Another important concept through the book is that of loyalty.  In a world where people have to be wary of everything, trusting someone is both extremely difficult and essential. That is juxtaposed with the Craker stance of trust by default.

The final thing I will say is that I found the ending of the book, and indeed the series, satisfying.  It wasn’t neatly tied in a bow but the story lived on and that was important to me, having invested in the world Atwood created. I also liked the lack of concrete resolution on the plague itself: we know who, and how, but we can never entirely know why – which is absolutely the way of the world.

I could say so much more but it’ll ruin the reading experience if I go any further!

Tying this back to writing, I am in awe of the complexity and breadth of the world Atwood has created. This is a world she both built up, and then destroyed, and she had to get the details right in both states.

I don’t think this is a standalone book, because even if you could read it alone you wouldn’t get the context.  However, for me, it was a great end to the trilogy.

Happy reading,



Strange Times

There’s a strange mood here, you can feel it in the air.

We’ve just had an election we didn’t need, called to give a mandate to a Prime Minister who thought she could stifle the opposition party – at a time when they seemed to be backing anyone but their own party leader.

The period of campaigning was extremely difficult, with devastating terrorist attacks in two of our major cities.

And after all the arguments, all the debates, all the interviews, we seem to be even more divided on what we want than we were before the election was called.

We are left with a minority government, propped up by a party who only represent constituents in Northern Ireland (which has its own implications for continuing the power sharing agreement there).  We are just about to start negotiating on our exit from the European Union, and the Prime Minister cannot even confirm the agreement reached with the DUP for them to provide support to her party.

There are rumblings about new elections, leadership challenges, votes of no confidence.  It’s a mess.

But… voter turnout increased.  There appears to have been a massive upturn in young people engaging with politics.  The government can no longer push through its own version of Brexit without overview.  People are talking about the election, what it means for us as a country. Austerity economics are being challenged. Shrill voices shouting ugliness are losing their power.

The outcome of this election was unthinkable when it was first called.

I don’t know what it means for the future of the country, but I know we need to build on engagement and enthusiasm, on political awareness. We need to remember that a positive campaign fought well took a party from wipeout to 40 percent of the vote share in a few weeks.

And that is the key thing to remember, actually: people wanted to engage, they just needed someone who they wanted to engage with.

Happy writing




Late and Short

It’s gone midnight so I am not going to write a proper post today.  I started one but it got a little bit too political and I felt the need to reflect before posting: things can come across wrongly if I don’t have a bit of space to review!

I can’t ignore the political mood at the moment though – it shapes my work, after all.  And I don’t want to offend people or preach a particular point, but I blogged for peace for a reason and it wasn’t so I could say I’d done all I needed to do.

So tomorrow I will write a bit more politically than normal.  Tonight, I will sleep!

Happy writing,



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