Sunday, 28 December 2014


Frog is not a keen walker but yesterday he agreed to come out with me. We drove to a nearby village and took a route I thought I hadn’t done before but realised that I had – once, in the other direction, with a group of friends, a few years ago. Although only a little further from Exeter than where we live, the land felt wilder and emptier. The fields were steep, the pasture unimproved. We didn’t meet another soul. We heard nothing but wind and birds. And we had a little adventure when I lost the path in a spooky wood. Perfect!

On the edge of the spooky wood. (Spot the dog.) I think I need a camera with a spirit level.

Rustic fence and oak trees.

Tree skeletons

Just us and the view

I’m reading a fabulous book at the moment. I chose it because of the title: FERAL: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding. Because I’m still only halfway through and because it’s not an easy book to summarise, I won’t tell you in my own words what it’s about but instead quote from the blurb:

Feral is the lyrical and gripping story of George Monbiot’s efforts to re-engage with nature and discover a new way of living. He shows how, by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been busy recently with a new job – editing our local magazine – and have not had time for my own creative writing. Having had a break from the editing over Christmas however, I realise how important creative writing is to me – whether or not what I write is published. It’s an expression of my own wild self. And this blog is a good place to restart – whether or not anyone reads it!

Off today to buy a new camera. Expect lots of amazing pictures.

Sunday, 14 December 2014


I climb the hill with the dog.
The sky is spotless blue.
Three lines arrive in my head:

I don’t like myself at the moment
but I don’t know how to be different.
I don’t know what different to be.

I stop in a gateway to write them down
and some skylarks flutter by,
glinting like fishes.

Later, in a secluded field,
I see tree skeletons against the sky,
and I’m happy again.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Part biography and part poignant memoir

The following is a copy of a review I've just posted on Amazon.

Max Despard was born in 1892 of Huguenot and Anglo-Irish ancestry. He served in the British navy in the First World War and was awarded the DSC ‘in recognition of exemplary gallantry’. His active career in the navy came to an end however in 1925 when a gun exploded next to him, tearing his hip and filling his thigh with shrapnel. Before and during the Second World War he served as naval attaché in Eastern Europe, directing clandestine operations on the Danube designed to stop supplies getting to Germany.
    Tall and flamboyant and signing his name ‘M’ on official documents, he may be some of the inspiration for James Bond’s boss, but after the war his life went into decline. In constant pain from his wound, he was not re-employed by the navy and retired on a pension that only took into account his active service. In 1949 his wife died of cancer and he and his children parted.
    Annabelle Despard was only six at the time and went to live first with relatives in Norway and then four years later with her much older, married sister back in England. She saw Max infrequently and the family never properly explained to her what had happened to her mother nor why she was separated from her father. This book is her attempt to discover more about this painful period – still a family no-go area – and about the father she hardly knew.
    I’m a daughter of the sister she went to live with. I met Max (my grandfather) once, when I was six. I welcome this book. And, because Annabelle is an accomplished writer (6 books of poetry, another memoir, and 4 books connected to her work teaching English at a Norwegian university), and because Max’s life was both extraordinary and of its time, and because every family has its secrets, others will too.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Leaving space for imagination

No time to write much – frantically busy putting together my first issue of our parishes magazine – so here instead are some pictures from a walk this afternoon on the Grand Western Canal.

It wasn’t until the end of the walk when I stopped to wait for Frog that I started to notice things and got out my (broken) camera.

Imagination rushes in to fill up the spaces. You have to leave spaces to allow for imagination, but alas I have too few spaces in my life at the moment

Friday, 3 October 2014

Boring update

I’ve finished the latest draft of The Novel. Hooray! I find novels such hard work. Every day as I walk into my writing room I think, can I do it? I feel constant pressure to make the most of my three writing days and get everything else done in the other four days of the week. I think about the novel all the time, so much so that my fictional life is more real than my real one and sometimes when I'm going about my real life it feels like fiction. It's hard to have the energy for a real life.

I intend to take a break till January and then have a last (I hope) quick run-through to tidy up some ends and redo a couple of chapters I’m not happy with yet.

In the meantime, I’ve offered to take over editing our ‘parishes newsletter’ (for four villages). The sensible part of me (a very small part) says that I will enjoy being connected to the community. The rest of me is screaming in terror as I have no idea how much work it will entail or how much I will struggle with the technical aspects (eg a new computer programme).

The dearth of pictures recently is due to the fact that my camera is nearly broken. When I inherited it (from my brother) one of the lugs (as Frog calls them) that keep the battery in place was broken. The other day I dropped the camera on our quarry-tiled kitchen floor and the other lug broke so now, when I take a picture, I have to hold the battery in place with a redundant finger – no mean feat. I’ve added ‘buying a camera’ to the list of ‘Things to do when I finish the novel’ (ie now).

As I lay in bed yesterday evening nursing my migraine my perception shifted and I moved into a blessed calm space. I realised that it’s not a question of either/or – is life an exam or a walk in the country? do I do this or that? have I made the right decision? It’s a question of stepping back from everything and observing it as part of the quirks of my peculiar life. The confusion is the problem, not the question. (Why do I keep forgetting that?)

This is rather a boring post but it’s difficult after a long gap, I find, to know where to start. I’m hoping it will open the door for other, more interesting, posts. By interesting I mean posts that have a more general relevance and aren’t just about me. Is that right? I’d love to know.