Saturday, 12 April 2014

How is you memory?


“What were you doing on the night of... between the hours of... ?” If I'm being asked to remember a drama script that might be fairly easy, but if I'm being asked to remember what I was doing..., that might be rather different.

Last night, when we took our dog for his usual evening walk, there were police officers stationed at various points around the Grange, the park here in Leominster where we take Henry every evening. Apparently there had been an incident a week earlier which they were investigating.

“Excuse me, were you here at this time last Friday? Did you notice anything unusual or suspicious?”

“Yes, of course. Always here at this time. No can't think of anything. What about... no, can't be sure...” And then I said that if this was a drama script and the question was “What were you doing on the night of... eight months ago...? I would answer right away that we were at the theatre.

“And we'd have helicopters, sniffer dogs and lasers and wrap it all up in no time,” said the copper.

But we could only be vague. Couldn't say that we had seen anything note worthy.

Returning twenty minutes later, Margaret said just as we approached the officer we had spoken with, “Wait a minute – we didn't see anything. We weren't here. We were at the Courtyard Theatre in Hereford for a performance by Fascinating Aida.” Doh! (And they were pretty good actually.)

Friday, 11 April 2014

Crompton's Mule


It's revival time. Time to revive my other blog, Crompton's Mule which I started as a place where I could give an airing to some of ideas of Freddie Whitaker, a significant character in my current novel Heron and the Carpenter. Freddie's story didn't diminish so much as get overtaken by Judy's ferreting out the possible details of Grandfather Solomon's story. Inevitably, Freddie now plays a lesser part than I envisaged at first.
A lesser part in my novel, that is. In fact, Freddie's story grew until now it has become my next project to follow Heron and the Carpenter. Not as a novel, though. It will be the non-fiction work I thought I had left behind. More of that in due course, however. For now it's time to revive my other blog with an excerpt from The Gospel of Eleazar for Holy Week.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Moon is only about 40 minutes drive away

This was the view from Eddisbury Hill yesterday morning. Looks like those guys at Jodrell Bank have got the moon down there for a closer look.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Go Carefully into the Forest


I first discovered this lake about ten years ago when I returned to Delamere Forest after far too long an absence. I wasn't looking for the lake, I was looking for the dense and boggy hollow where I was sure my Gran used to collect wimberries. I followed the path which I thought led to where I wanted to go until coming to a sign saying Danger. Deep Water. What confronted me looked like large-scale tree felling gone wrong, resulting in devastating flooding. Around the margins tree stumps were left to rot in the encroaching water.
I soon learned that this was an exciting scheme to restore an ancient peat bog but my initial reaction was shock. It inspired my only attempt at poetry in recent years. And when I learned much later of the tales of an ancient bog drained by French prisoners of war, it conjured up a picture of one such prisoner and his brief friendship with... Well, that's the story of my novel in progress, The Carpenter and Heron.
In the meantime, here's a photo of the now well re-established Blakemere and the poem which it inspired:
 
Go carefully into the forest,
Leave the track carefully, warily, scarily,
Storybook people live in the wood.




Go silently into the forest,
Feel the breeze silently, whispering, whispering,
Trees telling stories, singing songs of the wood.




Go moonlit into the forest,
Wait in the moonlight when shuffling, snuffling,
Badgers are scuffling deep in the wood.




Go skipping into the forest,
Down the bank skipping, hopping and stopping,
Looking for mushrooms down in the wood.




Go slowly into the forest,
Round the bend sadly, wistfully wondering
How did it happen? Such a vast clearing, flooded.
And the path to my childhood ends at the water’s edge where trees are dying.


Monday, 10 March 2014

The Heron and the Carpenter


I have just completed part one of my current novel. It feels as if it has taken a long time to get to this stage, but checking back, I realise that it's only just over a year since I began. An excerpt which I posted right at the beginning, not intending it to be an actual chapter did, in the end, form the basis of my opening chapter. Judy, the central character soon began to emerge from my initial imaginings and has become more dominant than I expected at the start.
So how does it go from here? I'll leave it for a few days before starting part two and in the meantime I'll be thinking about a possible cover and title. Until now the working title has been Whitaker's Basin but that will have to change. Judy has been working through her ancestor Solomon Whitaker's laboriously written story so another motif has come to the fore. At the moment something like, The Heron and the Carpenter feels right. It'll be something along those lines.
My timetable? Full first draft to be finished by the early autumn. Editing, getting feedback, further editing through the winter. And then by this time next year it should be ready to launch.
Until then, here's a photo. It's Black Lake, a magical place tucked away in Delamere Forest near where a lot of the action takes place. Look closely at that photo. Can you see the heron? Or the carpenter? Judy can “see” them.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Anna's story


When I was writing Leaving Gilead I was all the time aware of the need to make my subject believable – and when that subject is a religious movement with beliefs and attitudes that are just plain unbelievable, it can be a bit tricky at times. The religion underlying my story was the Jehovah's Witnesses but I knew that if I showed things as they really are for many people, lots of readers simply would not believe it. The solution was a semi-fictional religious group, the Fellowship of Gilead, which I intended to be clearly based upon the Jws but which might appear realistic. And my novel traced the stories of Susan and Melanie as they freed themselves from the irrationality with which they had been brought up.

Since writing Leaving Gilead I have reconnected with the online ex-Jw community and many of the personal accounts I have heard have echoed what I portrayed in my novel. One which I read today stands out. If Anna Macaluso's story were offered as fiction who would say it is anything like reality? But Anna's story is not fiction, it is reality. It is scarcely credible that this young woman (and there are thousands of people like her) should be forced to resort to clandestine efforts to receive the medical treatment without which she would have died.

Anna'sstory had a happy ending. Many others do not. A religious movement which places its members under duress to make life-threatening decisions on behalf of their children is quite simply repugnant. Do read Anna's story and pass on the link.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Wesley House


In my plotting and scheming for Whitaker's Basin, my current novel in progress, Freddie Whitaker is preparing to leave Cambridge. He's been ousted from his dream job as Principal of a small theological college. He's quite simply too far over the liberal end of the spectrum of belief for the prevailing fundamentalist orthodoxy of his church. So it's goodbye, Radcliffe Court, for Freddie.

Meanwhile in the real Cambridge, it's soon to be goodbye for my own alma mater. The last intake of Methodist ordinands studying at Wesley House will complete their studies this academic year and then the House will cease to function as one of the Methodist Church's theological colleges training its next generation of ministers. A big chunk of the place will be sold and what remains will be used as some sort of educational resource for lay training.

(File from Wikimedia Commons) The window peeping out from the top right corner of the photo is my old living room window. And that big central part of the building is the library.


I loved my three years at Wesley House, especially my studies in the University and it saddens me that others will no longer have quite the same opportunity that I had. As a far over the edge liberal whom many would not recognise as any sort of believer, I rate my time at Wesley House as one of the highlights of my working and studying life.