Posts Tagged ‘photographs’

DSC_0299 I have said before that I like to take photos of things that inspire, interest and engage me.  I also enjoy having slightly off-beat reminders of special events.

This photo is of some glow-stick bangles I was wearing at my friend’s birthday party.  It’s going to be a reference point for a poem which I hope will be suitable for performance soon.

It brings such a lot of different ideas to the fore which fit neatly into my series.  I won’t go into the theme now but I feel the juxtaposition of two elements of my personality are perfectly encompassed in the image.

It was lovely to get out and really celebrate; I completely let my hair down and although I took a few photos I left my notebook in my bag.  I wanted to be completely present and that isn’t always easy when you are looking at the world with a view to recording it!  My one regret was that the beautiful cake didn’t get cut (told you I would mention cake :-)).  I did notice that!

Work is continuing on the poetry but this week I want to ramp it up a bit with a collective writing experience and a mindful writing session to follow it up.

For now, I am putting on my eyemask, turning off the noise and focussing on getting the first few lines of my new poem set out.

Happy writing,



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It has just gone midnight and I have not finished writing a blog post for the day. As I have previously fallen asleep writing posts at this sort of time (and I apologise for those, they probably make very little sense), I am going to defer until tomorrow.

I do know the post will feature discussions about photography and possibly cakes…

Catch up tomorrow/later today when I have slept and been to work!

Happy writing,



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It’s the first of December already!  I haven’t got to grips with this year yet, and it’s nearly over.   In the next few weeks there’ll be a rush of events – and then it’ll be 2017.

We have an advent candle this year, something I’ve never had before.  I am going to use the time it is burning to take a break and reflect, because if I don’t December truly will pass by in a blur.

It’ll be my own mindful moment, allowing me to mark the passing of each day.

The Christmas period is to me a time of love, of friends and family, of sharing special moments.  But I have to be honest and say the meaning and purpose can be lost in the preparations and the pressure of trying to fit everything in, so the focus goes from the positive to the negative.


As I count down to the celebrations and mark each passing day, I will try my hardest to keep the focus not on the rushing and the pressure, but on the many ways I am truly lucky to have the life I do.

This year has been a weird one for me in many ways, not least of all because of my health – but I can still end it looking forward with positivity and hope.

Happy 1st December!



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First, a little story. This weekend I spent part of my time looking at universities. We have two fairly local to us and I have a close relative who is hoping to start a degree next year, so I offered to take her to them. However, I didn’t want to influence her too much with my opinions so let her do the tours with a friend as I entertained myself.

Well, for me, entertainment was a student bookshop, where they sold the Penguin Little Black Classics – a collection of books that have probably been out of print for a very long time, mostly short and really cheap. In this particular example it was 80p (with a 10% discount on top of that!). To put that in context for overseas readers, last week’s read would cost £8.99 new, so it’s very cheap indeed.

Naturally, I bought a few.  I limited myself to four, which I am extremely proud of, and started reading one straight away.  2 pages in it was saying that at a certain age people shouldn’t go out in public, and I knew I was onto a winner!

Book 41 – A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees, by Kenkō; translated by Meredith McKinney. This isn’t a novel, so much as a set of thoughts about the world, so a review in the normal sense doesn’t really work here.


Kenkō was a Japanese monk who was born in the late 13th century.  His thoughts obviously reflect a different time and place to that in which I live and a lot of what he says is humourous only for being so unbelievable in our day and age – although it’s tinged with the understanding that some people live in environments where his views have traction.

However, for every outmoded concept there is a more timeless idea, a thought that reflects back at me through the centuries.

These thoughts cover how people should perceive life, their approach to the world, thoughts on what holds humanity back: in many respects this is a philosophical book. What makes it stand out to me is the sense that every moment in life is special and that we should stop focussing on having more, but instead focus on each moment.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to share a few quotes with you, which is really the best way to demonstrate some of the thinking…

It is the ephemeral nature of things that makes them wonderful.


All things in this phenomenal world are mere illusion.

Does mortality wait on our choosing?  Death comes upon us more swiftly than fire or flood.

… there can be no doubt that it would benefit those below if people in high positions were to cease their luxurious and wasteful ways and instead were kind and tender to the people, and encouraged agriculture.

There are many more examples but these are just a few which grabbed my attention.

Yes, there is a lot in the book that wouldn’t go down very well at an equalities convention!  Nevertheless it reminds me a lot of mindfulness books I have read because of the focus on experiencing the ‘now’, and valuing the world for what it is, not what it could be or has been; not dismissing the imperfect, because it is still of value.

In fact, now I’ve written that I think I understand its attractiveness to me: it is a very early version of a mindfulness text, and I am very glad I invested in it!

Oh and one final thought – sorry the photo is a bit blurry, I think there’s a fingerprint on the camera lens!

Happy reading,





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Wow, I’m 3 for 3, and I even took a photo for your delectation!

Book 40 – Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood.  Joan Foster is a complicated woman, with a complicated history. After faking her own death she runs away to a small village in Italy to start a new life away from the fear and complexities of her own.  Alone and out of control, she thinks about the stages of her life and the people who have shaped her experiences. From fat child who used her weight as a weapon against her mother to loneliness in London; from a life with a Polish Count to bored housewife; from slush writer to acclaimed novelist, Joan has lost sight of her own identity.

However, she soon realises that running away is not quite as easy as she thought, and she knows someone is coming for her…

This book is actually really hard to explain, and in reading what I have written there I am not sure I have captured the essence of the story.  To me, this book is all about self, as in finding what exactly ‘self’ is to someone who has no clear idea who they are.

Despite her many accomplishments Joan still sees herself as the fat child: bullied and cajoled by others, fighting a battle of wills with her mother, even when her mother has passed away.  Her successful writing career is a secret from her husband because he won’t find her work sufficiently intellectual, and yet when she does finally make a literary impact he doesn’t support her anyway.  She hides her history, creating a new and more satisfying story for herself and in the meantime losing the opportunity to explain why she feels or behaves as she does.

Joan is not herself, and even when reading the book you wonder if her narrative is entirely accurate because there is so much of the world she chooses to hide, or ignore.


I really enjoy reading Margaret Atwood because her characters drive the stories. There might be nothing in particular happening in a scene but their internal monologue is so convincing that you believe their dramatic explanations of events. They create drama even in the most simple of situations.

In this particular case you feel for Joan too – her lonely childhood punctuated by visits to an aunt who died in her teens, the naive way she accidentally ends up as a mistress, her desperate need to be loved fully and without judgement.  In creating a separate identity for her commercial writing she put part of herself behind a curtain and her husband never pulled it back.

This book was hard for me to put down once I started reading; I found the ending a bit odd but it was in keeping with the out of kilter nature of the story so worked in that context.  The characters were engaging, the story complicated but satisfying, and the style of writing full of depth and quality but fluid and easy to read – I never feel like I’m reading a thesaurus when reading Atwood, despite her clever and rich use of language.

As someone who enjoys this style of writing I would definitely recommend the book; I always enjoy books about the human experience.  This has more to it than just the one theme, but it’s the element which most interests me and therefore the one I absorb!

Happy reading,



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It’s the last day of my break now and I’m a little sad that I am back to work tomorrow. It’s been very restful even with going away for a few days but tomorrow it’ll all go back to normal.

I have to admit Fred hasn’t travelled much with me, and is languishing somewhere near Stonehenge but I have been reading about plot and structure as well as tackling some novels. I wasn’t going to read them but sitting down with a coffee on a squishy chair isn’t as relaxing when you’re reading a text book…

I am about to start re-reading the plot and structure book because it is filled with exercises I want to try out, but that is for next week’s post!

It’s been a useful exercise to revisit some basics though. When I write I tend to fall into certain patterns and behaviours, and the book should help with stripping out the bad behaviours and focussing on a cleaner, more precise, narrative flow.

As importantly, it gives me tools to check the narrative itself – specifically whether it is strong enough to be the foundation of a novel. That is a discipline I need to work on, now more than ever due to my restricted writing time.

The other thing I have been doing is getting back to photography. I went to a couple of Medieval religious buildings and duly paid for photography permits so I could at least attempt to record some of what I saw.

At it was Remembrance Day on the 11 November the buildings were dressed with poppies, which is always a poignant reminder of how history shapes our experience of life, especially when is buildings that have stood for so long.

The last couple of weeks have definitely been more about theory than practice, but I don’t think that is a bad thing for me. I just have to remember that Fred needs a bit of an outing too!

Happy Writing,

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As promised, here are the details of the second book I read over the last week.

Book 35 – My Soul To Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.  Lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdottir is called out to a client’s new hotel to discuss the possibility of a claim against the previous owners: his business is a spiritual retreat, and the rumours of ghosts on the site are affecting both his staff, and his potential bottom line.  It’s a strange case, and not one that seems particularly likely to succeed. But when the hotel architect is brutally murdered, Thóra has a far more complicated investigation on her hands – and one that may prove her client is guilty…

This is one of the books I bought at the crime writing convention back in April – the writer was one of the panellists and she was really funny and interesting, plus she wrote in my book which is always nice!

Words of wisdom

I’m telling you this for full disclosure before my review!

I enjoyed this book – I wasn’t sure if it would be too gory as it was described as ‘spooky and gruesome’ but actually it wasn’t too much for me.  The setting was extremely atmospheric: remote, foggy and grey, and this bleakness permeated the story.  The writing was not too convoluted, considering it is a translation, and despite the subject there was also a light touch that balanced out the darker elements.

In fact, this was one of the more unexpected elements really – not only a dark humour but also despite the atmosphere and the subject matter, this book did not have the feeling of heaviness I associate with this genre.

It is also the only crime novel I have come across with a resident sex therapist as part of the story!

This is the second book with the same lead characters and I will probably get the first one now to see where the story starts: I liked the characters, the interaction of murder with the acknowledged tedium of legislation and the glimpses into Thóra’s less than perfect personal life.

So overall I would recommend this for those who, like me, don’t want a lot of explicit gore but want an atmospheric book with a good story.

Happy reading,



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