Saturday, 19 December 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It's time to take a short break - to kick back and relax.  So here's wishing one and all a merry Christmas and a happy new year.  Have a good one. 

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Conferences, journalism and voice-recognition

Attended a conference in Melbourne at the start of the week.  One of the highlights was listening to Sushi Das, senior writer with The Age.  Enjoyed hearing someone with so much journalistic integrity describe her approach to writing news stories and feature articles.  This seminar also had me taking note afresh of the similarities and dissimilarities with writing fiction - things which can be learned or borrowed from journalists to sharpen fiction.

Have been playing around with Dragon Naturally Speaking across the last fortnight.  Wanted to try this program for years, but finally got round to loading it recently.  Was a little sceptical after hearing of Mrs T's difficulties with this Voice-Recognition software over at her Witty Ways blog, but given that stories grow out of an oral tradition, it seemed a reasonable idea to try and take story-telling back to an oral approach, as long as the Dragon and I were compatible with one another.

Thought I'd try reciting Jack and Jill as one of my first exercises, before cracking into a lengthy short story I've been telling for years but have never written down.

First time I tried, it came up with:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To Japan across the water...

Hmm, not sure how it managed that.  Second and third time it did exactly the same. To Japan across the water.  Thought maybe I'd read too much Haruki Murakami of late or that it was having difficulties with my peculiar blend of accents, so did some retraining.  This involved reciting all of John F Kennedy's speeches to Congress, or some such, along with a couple of comedy sketches that the program obviously enjoyed hearing read aloud.  Anyway, a couple of hours later, I try Jack and Jill  once again.

This time it comes up with:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To bitch about the water...

It might not be 100% accurate, but at least it seems to be on a similar wavelength to me.  If I had to climb a hill every time I wanted to fetch a pail, I'd bitch about the water too. The program stays. It can shape the grittier, less-tolerant voice behind my next story. 

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Stories, commas, Vampire Weekend and stuff

Am putting a few workplace hours into exploring and discussing the whole business of story-telling at the moment, as well as developing some short stories of my own at home.  Editing too, having left Number Two to rest in a dark cellar for a few months.  It's now time to dust it down and edit the wee beastie before it goes to print.

Across at The View From Here, we're beginning to build a new Opportunities page, to list forthcoming Opportunities, Competitions and Awards for writers.  As well as getting ready to profile a publisher (and what submissions they're looking for) on a regular basis.  So, if you know of any Opportunities, Competitions or Awards that would interest the writing community, email me and we'll do our best to include them:
opportunities at viewfromheremagazine dot com

Didn't use an Oxford comma above (that little comma that sometimes precedes 'and' or 'or' to simplify meaning in a list), although I'll happily use them when occasion demands.  To be honest, I didn't know that the little blighter even had a special name until recently, and then - Shazam! - a couple of weeks after discovering what an Oxford comma was and a couple of weeks after being interested by a band I'd not come across before, I come across the same band singing about Oxford commas.  Serendipity, eh?

Here's Vampire Weekend.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sian Burman exhibition

Here's a bit of a plug for my talented partner, Siân Burman, who is exhibiting several of her recent works at Blarney Books Art Gallery in Port Fairy at the moment: acrylics, oils and mixed medium collages.  It's been a busy house of late.  She's also been blog-building recently, and some of her work can be seen in a little more detail over at her blog spot.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ghosts at The View, Angel Delight and whales

Have just posted a piece I've been working on for The View from Here: The Ghost Poetry Project: an interview with Nathan Curnow - Part One.  Part Two should be appearing at around 1.00 pm (AEST) on Tuesday.

Recently read Toast, the story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater (Harper Perennial, 2007) and Dissection by Jacinta Halloran (Scribe, 2008).  Well, I stopped with Toast after a hundred pages.  I found it interesting to be reminded of the various food fads of 60s Britain - Heinz Sponge Pudding, Arctic Roll, Angel Delight, to name but a few - but wanted something more of a story behind all the humorous observations.  After a while it felt like I was being spoon-fed bowl after bowl of Angel Delight: too much saccharine, too little substance.  Dissection was a much more substantial dish.

The whales have left our stretch of the Southern Ocean for the time-being - their presence during the winter months is always impressive - but to make up for that, I've rediscovered (courtesy of ComedyOnABC) a favourite short animation.  Anything for mindless amusement.  Love the 'New Zealand' accents.

Here's episodes 1 and 6.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Fun Theory

After a fun night at the art auction (and what better way of raising money for a local charity than involving everyone, loosening wallets with champagne and having a good laugh?), thought I might keep the Fun theme rolling with these excellent ideas from TheFunTheory.com.

Go have fun.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Last Suppers and Tea Parties

Have been caught up in a number of projects recently, which have swallowed all my spare moments, it seems. Not quite clear yet, but getting there. Some have been enjoyably creative, some administrative and some domestic ... and then there's the work that pays to put bread on the table ... next to the wine and fish, of course. Escaped to Melbourne at the weekend to veg out, hang out and catch a couple of exhibitions devoted to Leonardo Da Vinci: Anatomy to Robots and Peter Greenaway's superb Leonardo's Last Supper. Also took the chance to visit The Horn, a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant in Collingwood. What a supper that was.

Either side of that, have been throwing a bit of acrylic paint at a canvas again. All in the name of charity.

Made a decision a few years back not to spend any more time painting, but to concentrate on writing instead; however, was asked recently to create a painting for a charity auction - for the local hospital - which will take place this weekend. (Resolutions are worth nothing if they can't be broken.) It became a family affair, with three of us swearing at easels, trying to meet the deadline.

Mine (Tea Party - Encroaching Shadows below) was influenced by Lewis Carroll's mad Hatter's tea party and Charles Blackman's Alice in Wonderland series of paintings, which I saw a couple of years back (see above). Also by the 'dark forest' as a motif in story-telling. There's a lot I'd have to learn about technique and ways of seeing before I ever got to be a half-decent painter, but I had a great time experimenting with perspective, light, shadows and brush strokes to create visual images rather than with words, rhythm and silences. All very therapeutic. Time to get back to the written word again now though ... once I've had a bite of supper.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Ghost Poetry Project

Had a wonderful surprise a couple of weeks back, when a friend posted me a copy of The Ghost Poetry Project by Nathan Curnow. I didn't know it was on its way - just opened the padded bag and ... Hey presto!

Happy day. (Thanks, JL. You're a gem.)

It's an intriguing idea for an anthology of poems, built from Nathan Curnow's decision to spend ten nights in ten of Australia's (reputedly) most haunted locations. From sleeping in the back of Elvira the haunted hearse to a night at the notorious Port Arthur penal settlement.

And the writing is stunning too. Superb poetry.

Won't say much more at the moment because I'm going to interview Nathan for The View From Here very soon, except that The Ghost Poetry Project is available from a number of Australian booksellers and directly from the publisher, Puncher & Wattmann.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Recent Reads

Have just finished reading Haruki Murakami's Dance Dance Dance (Vintage). I'm a bit of a sucker for Murakami's novels (haven't read any of his non-fiction yet) and have been ever since I first came across The Wind-up Bird Chronicle about ten years ago. However, Dance Dance Dance, which was first published in 1988, has catapulted itself close to the top of my Murakami favourites.

While his novels are wonderfully surreal at times, it's a quality of the narrative voice that sucks me in and draws me along - a quality that the translator (Alfred Birnbaum on this occasion) obviously manages to retain.

High-class call girls billed to Mastercard. A psychic thirteen-year-old drop-out with a passion for Talking Heads. A hunky matinee idol doomed to play dentists and teachers. A one-armed beach-combing poet, an uptight hotel clerk (in a hotel that houses a metaphysical hotel) and one very bemused narrator...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Book Group

Spent Thursday evening as the guest of a local Book Group, who'd chosen The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore as their October selection. Thanks, folks.

I've been involved with answering the questions of a couple of Book Groups via email in the past, but this was my first 'live' involvement, and what a great night it was: a lot of laughter and a very decent drop of wine - not necessarily in that order. I could get accustomed to that.

While I'm posting, here's a plug for the delightful and witty Mrs T, who, when she's not blogging away at her own site, writes very entertaining pieces for the BBC. Check out her latest contribution to Mum's The Word here.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Surreal Italy

Flicking through some photos of Italy from May, there seems to be a surreal theme to my favourites. Was really taken by this stone tree in the courtyard of the Medici Palace in Rome and wouldn't mind growing one in our backyard.

Brilliant light and Italianate buildings suggest Giorgio de' Chirico. The only thing missing was the long shadows and the outline of a train.

The roofline of buildings spiralling down the cliffs of Cinque Terre put me in mind of Maurits Escher.

As did the rooftops in Siena.

And this Sienese beauty speaks for herself.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Recent Reads

Had a good run of books recently. Pleasurable reads. Sometimes nothing seems to satisfy, but then several good reads in a row come along. This run began with Jae Watson's Journey (Legend Press). Put if off for a while because I didn't like the cover, but once I opened it the quality narrative hooked me quickly and I loved the descriptions of Marianne and Sara's journey through India. I found the characters interesting, which they've got to be if you're going to tag along on this sort of journey with them, and I admire the way Jae Watson handled the mystery of Sara's death, dropping some tremendous surprises along the way. 'Following the break-up of her relationship and unsure of her life's direction, Marianne leaves a London still reverberating from the terrorist bombings to travel for a year with the mysterious and beautiful Sara...'

Next came
Streakers (PaperBooks), Gary Davison's second novel. This is a fun read from start to finish, and I got the sense that he had a great time writing it. It comes through every page, which makes it a page-turner! Having had a chat with Gary about this (and who's currently running a short story competition over at his website), I have to agree that it would make a great film: very visual and vibrant - a book bursting with antics and energy. It put me in mind of The Full Monty, even though the storyline is nothing alike; possibly because it shares the same gritty, irreverent humour and is a celebration of determination against all odds. 'Faccome FC are playing at home when the crowd erupts and a masked streaker sprints across the pitch...'

Alternated reading
Streakers with Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (Penguin). This is one book I've been meaning to read for years and years. Have seen Stanley Kubrick's movie, but somehow failed to get round to the book... until now. The Penguin plain cover branding - reminiscent of Penguin's covers from the 1960s - is probably one reason I finally picked it up: great cover, great novel. 'Fifteen-year-old Alex and his thrill-seeking gang regularly indulge in ultra-violence, rape and drugs...' (Found Blake Morrison's introduction good value too.)

Number four was a re-read: William Maxwell's
So Long, See You Tomorrow (Panther). I first read this in 2000, and the narrative style made a big impression on me at the time - sparse, slightly distant. Wanted to get the feel of that again. Wasn't quite so strong this time for me, perhaps because I was expecting it, but still a beautifully written book: 'A murder in rural Illinois shatters the tenuous friendship between two lonely boys...'

Monday, 21 September 2009

Back in blogdom

Gary Davison's short story competition is building up steam. He's announced the judges and is posting the occasional profile, and the choice of inspirational titles and opening sentences will be published on Monday 28th September (courtesy of *cough, cough* yours truly). For full details click here.

I like Gary's idea for the small entry fee, and wish I'd thought of som
ething like this myself. Instead of charging a flat fee, as many writing competitions do, all that competitors have to do is purchase a copy of his latest novel Streakers from Amazon and post a brief review of it there. It's a neat idea, and not just from a marketing perspective, but because it ensures that, even if competitors don't win one of the significant prizes, they'll still have a book to keep. I guess that's a win-win situation.

By the by, the final part of my interview with Dmetri Kakmi recently appeared in The View From Here, and the UK edition of his excellent me
moir Mother Land will be released by Eland in the next few days.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Interviewing Dmetri Kakmi at The View From Here

Over at The View From Here, I've just posted the first part of an interview with Dmetri Kakmi, author of the fabulous memoir Mother Land. I interviewed Dmetri last year for the Ex Libris Book Fair and recently finished transcribing that section of the interview I recorded. Wander across and have a read: click here or there. He's a very interesting bloke, great fun to talk with and, drawing on his experience as both a writer and an editor, provides a number of valuable insights about the nature of fiction and non-fiction and about the processes of writing.

At the moment, I'm putting together some opening lines and titles for a short story competition that Gary Davison has organised, but more on that in a couple of days.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Hong Kong... and London

Browsing through a few holiday pics, thought I might put up 2 or 3 from Hong Kong. These were taken along Star Quay in Kowloon - hand-prints of Hong Kong actors in the paving stones, statues along the front, that sort of thing. I often take photos of people taking photos, it seems; love the way we pose in front of icons.

The mock film posters were part of an art installation. Was amused by what the artist chose to say about London.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Concord and A Black Joy

According to Jacques Barzun, 'Art distils sensation and embodies it with enhanced meaning in memorable form - or else it is not art.'

Must be why I head to Melbourne every
once in while, to savour some of that distillation in one flavour or another. Enjoyed Concord, a contemporary ballet performance last weekend, which made Barzun's quote particularly apt. Many of the images created by the Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato in Por Vos Muero are still floating around in my head.

It's all grist to the mill... or over at the Factory of the Imagination.

Thought I might also plug A Black Joy today, which will be showing in that fine city soon, and because I'm delighted to know one of the cast
. Also because I like the magazine spoof that's doing some catchy promo work for it. So, if you're in Melbourne between 24th September and 4th October, and you enjoy a good black comedy...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Thumbs up to Scott Pack and Juana Molina

Thumbs up to Scott Pack (ex-buyer for HMV and Waterstones, currently publisher at The Friday Project) and a man with fine literary taste. Over at his blog, Me and My Big Mouth, he had this to say about The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore:
"An intriguing set up, a great title and a strong cover. Not sure if any book chains promoted it but they should have done, it is rather good."

Did I say 'fine literary taste'? Make that exceptionally excellent taste.

While I was filching this quote from Scott's site, thought I might as well filch this YouTube video too. Noticed Juana Molina sitting there a couple of weeks ago and, while the music and her approach to creating it certainly won me over (have a look at her website), the video blew me away. Reminded me of an Hieronymus Bosch character chirruping away - somewhere this side of Hell. A sprite at best.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

More Dylan Thomas? Accompanied by The Herd.

After Gary D requested a pic of Dylan Thomas' view when writing in Laugharne, Mike K. asked if I had a pic of Thomas' writing shed. Couldn't find one amongst the 1800 photos (!
) that we took and then I remembered why: because it just looks like an old shed. The Trust that looks after the property has done up the inside and put up a glass viewing screen though, so in the event I took one photo of this little temple. Authentic Dylan Thomas scrap paper? The poet having an off-day? Or a few props to add ambience? Did Thomas really have portraits of D.H.Lawrence and others up in his writing pad?

Still kipping down at Gary's blog off-and-on, and provided a few brief answers to questions about writing while I was there.

Over at Gary's, I mentioned The Herd - an interesting Sydney band who don't mind using their songs for a bit of political clout, and good on 'em too. Here's a couple of songs that their label, Elefant Traks, uploaded to YouTube. The previously mentioned The King is Dead and 2020. Get dancing.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The view from Dylan Thomas' house

In response to my last post, Gary Davison (of Fat Tuesday and Streakers fame) asked me to post a pic of the view Dylan Thomas might've had from his house - what scene he'd be able to stare at when he was writing. I've (roughly) stitched a couple of shots together, taken from the path above his house, to try and capture this view. A stunning estuary. Although, when Thomas and his family lived there, coal was apparently delivered to a small dock right next to where his garden would've been. He had a shed about 100 metres further down the path, which he used as his main writing studio, and this can still be seen today, with pretty much the same view.

Talking of Gary D., he invited me to write a couple of pieces for his blog, so I'm a guest there at the moment. The first item was a hypothetical: what
I'd say if I met six (specific) famous people. He's posted this recently (but added a few photos of his own and a couple of comments too - Thanks, Gary!). The second will be a few comments about writing, and the third will be the opening lines for his next short story competition. See you there.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Book Sale, Tennyson, Pleasantville, Dylan Thomas and more

Was reminded recently that the good folk over at PaperBooks are having something of a Summer Sale at the moment. All titles in their online shop (click link above) are currently half-price. They also offer a free book to anyone who sends in a photo of a PaperBooks title being read on holiday. And, what's more, there's a special 'Word of Mouth' offer in the back of most titles...

Can't s
ay they're not doing everything possible to make buying PaperBooks' books easy.

As I write this, and by way of acknowledging the recent bicentenary of his birth (6th August, 1809), I'm listening to a program that celebrates the work of Lord Alfred Tennyson. Happy birthday, Alf! To Strive, to Seek, to Find and Not to Yield is the latest broadcast in BBC Radio 3's Words and Music series (available on podcast here until Monday 17th August, 2009).

The show presents an eclectic range of readings an
d music in a manner that adds new meaning to the Poet Laureate's work, ranging from Billy Bragg singing Blake's Jerusalem and Van Morrison singing Don't Worry About Tomorrow to Dvorak's Song to the Moon from Rusalka and a portion of Verdi's La Traviata. Interspersed with this music are words from, amongst others, Dylan Thomas (an all-time favourite of mine: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night), Kathleen Raine, Marvell, Robert Frost and, of course, Tennyson himself.

The producer of the program, Elizabeth Funning, notes how she ended up exploring "ideas of decision, change, seizing the day, and fighting the inevitable." Serendipitous this, as I was watching, Pleasantville the other night, for the ten thousandth time, and still enjoy how it explores and responds to exactly those ideas - universal themes which come to the fore every now and then in music, literature, film, art, and which I'll chew over for a while longer, I think. Anyway, this has made listening to Words and Music all the more enjoyable.

Talking of Dylan Thomas, went on a mini-pilgrimage to Laugharne and Thomas' stamping ground when I was in Wales recently. He was one of the first writers I got hooked on when I was at school - loved the lyricism of his short stories and Under Milk Wood, of course, and it had a lasting influence on me, I think... I reckon... maybe.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Creative non-fiction

Have been working on a couple of creative non-fiction articles across the last couple of weeks. Thought it was time to challenge a different part of my brain for a while. Hmm. A different way of thinking. Hope it doesn't foment a Work-To-Rule down at the Factory of the Imagination.

Friday, 31 July 2009

'Tis Pity She's a Whore

Have recently revisited a few Jacobean tragedies. Being winter and cold and wet, it's the time of year for dark plots and stages littered with corpses. Enjoyed these when I first read them many years ago - all that incest, skulduggery and treachery - and thought it time I tapped back into those themes. I enjoy the twists and machinations in Cyril Tourneur's The Revenger's Tragedy and John Webster's The White Devil, but 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (great title) by John Ford was my favourite first time around and still is. Love it.

Also finally got round to reading Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner.

PS. The cover of 'Tis Pity puts me in mind of the tour I took round the new Globe theatre when in London. It's a stunning theatre and, given that there wasn't time to fit in a performance, made me determined to get tickets next time. Enjoyed the story about how the original Globe burnt down:

During the second performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, it had been decided to mark the entrance of the king's character by firing a cannon (safely wadded with cloth rather than shot) to create a greater sense of pomp and ceremony than the usual trumpets allowed. Unfortunately some of the burning cloth from the cannon landed on the thatched roof and set the place ablaze. It's recorded that, out of the hundreds of people crammed into the auditorium, no one was hurt, although one man's breeches caught alight. These were fortuitously doused with a pitcher of beer. Cheers!

PPS. Have loaded the 'My Library Thing' widget to the side bar, to record some of these Recent Reads.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Writer's Almanac

A friend tuned me into The Writer's Almanac on American Public Radio. Each day, Garrison Keillor (in his rich, honeyed voice) reads a poem and provides a few literary anecdotes in response to a few literary anniversaries. For those of us who don't live in the States, the site can also be accessed online or subscribed to via email or podcast, and so I'm now enjoying a daily ration of this excellent show. While poetry can, I find, sometimes defeat itself by being too inaccessible, too obscure - too clever - I haven't come across a single selection from The Writer's Almanac that I haven't enjoyed immensely. I've also learned some interesting snippets about a few of the literary greats.

To view and/or subscribe, click here.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

London (Foyles, Waterstones, Books Etc)

It's time to upload a holiday snap or two. Had a particularly good day in London (see post below), signing books at the Trafalgar Square Waterstones and Broadgate Circle Books Etc, meeting Tom and Lucy at PaperBooks, and rejoicing over the front-of-shop positioning of The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore as one of Foyles' Recommended Reads. The photo against the backdrop of Big Ben says it all. (There was a time I applied for a job at Foyles, many years ago, when I thought selling books in the day and writing them at night would be an ideal existence, so it was particularly rewarding to see the book sitting proudly there.)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Posting at The View from Here

It's been a couple of months since I contributed to that wonderful literary ezine The View From Here. Thought I should do something about that, so have: a short piece about, appropriately enough, travel and writing and being home. You can find it here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

MAGAZYN lokalny

One of many highlights in recent weeks was visiting and catching up with Mike French, founding editor of The View From Here. Mike has become a dynamic presence in the literary world and is often involved in a number of exciting projects. Recently invited to write an English column for MAGAZYN lokalny, the magazine for the Polish community in Luton and Dunstable, he handed me a copy with a grin: his first article - produced at short notice - was his review of The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore. It's great to see the novel featured in this magazine and I wish MAGAZYN lokalny every success.

Download magazine pdf.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Home Sweet Home

The Most Excellent Adventure has come to an end and I'm home-sweet-home again. Back to a winter landscape, and time to catch up with paying bills, chopping wood, finding the garden and definitely time to get back into writing. Slowly though, because my head is a Snow Globe of impressions at the moment - people I've met, places explored, smells, tastes, ideas - and I don't want them to settle too soon... not until they've trickled through into a story or two.

From the ending of one Most Excellent Adventure to another: here's the ending from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Friday, 26 June 2009

'The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore' in Ulverscroft Large Print

Ulverscroft released the large print, hard cover edition of The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore this month. To see the cover design for this, or for more details, click here. (Don't have the facilities here to copy and paste the cover into this blog.)

Would write more, but am on the hop. Leaving UK on Tuesday for USA. Very exciting. Never been there before.

Just finished reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Thought it was about time I read this, as I only knew it through various adaptations. Great story, although I inevitably found the C19 storytelling style a little laboured.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Foyles recommends The Snowing and Greening

One of many highlights while in London was seeing The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore prominently displayed at the main entrance to Foyles (Charing Cross Road) as one of their Recommended Reads. Good on 'em.

Also did stock-signings at Waterstones (Trafalgar Square) and Books Etc (Broadgate Circle), and met up with Tom and Lucy at PaperBooks.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Travel Reads

It's not my intention to turn this into a travelogue (or a travelblog), and am keeping a notebook of observations, impressions, etc, which I might return to and use in some form or another at a later date. But thought I should pop my head up on my travels to say 'Hi' and talk about some of the books that have accompanied me so far.

One of the many, tremendous things about travelling is that I always read much more than I can usually find the time for. I'm not much good for anything on long haul flights, but train journeys and waiting for planes is a great time for reading, particularlarly once I've had my fill of looking out the window or observing people. Reading is also a great defence against jet-lag - to stave off sleep at 8 o'clock of an evening... for an extra 20 minutes or so!

The two PaperBooks titles I packed to accompany me were Michael Marr's Three Jumpers and Jon Haylett's Black Mongoose. I figured these would last me until we reached the UK at least, but I enjoyed both so much that I finished Three Jumpers in Hong Kong (Kowloon) and Black Mongoose in Italy (Rome, La Spezia and Cinque Terre, Siena).

Seeing the way things were going, and itching at the relative cheapness of books anywhere outside of Australia, we couldn't resist buying Tim Winton's Breath in HK airport (a book I've been after for a while, but couldn't afford the hard cover edition) and Haruki Murakami's After Dark - another author we both enjoy.

The slim After Dark saw me out for our return to Rome from Siena and flying across to the UK, and Breath has accompanied me from London to Wotton-under-Edge to Cardigan. All this tremendous literature is, of course, generating ideas and strings of words of my own, and so my notebook is rapidly filling with phrases, descriptions, story outlines, notes.

And now, with my internet time about up, I want to wander about the town, find a bookshop and pick up another couple of titles for the next leg of our journey.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Number Two

Well, Number Two is finished (for the moment). Got to that point at which I knew it was done - was the way I wanted it (for the time-being). Enjoyed a day of feeling pleased with the way it had worked out, before beginning to wonder about Number Three. Celebrated this by going for a wander around the town and to have a look at the effects of a recent king tide: it ate several metres of dune and closed a road by throwing rocks across it (and the walking track). Pretty awesome. Glad I wasn't in the car at time. Glad I wasn't walking there at the time.

Am going to be travelling around a bit for a short while now, so may seem a little distant from blogdom at times, but will try and post (and visit blogs) when I can.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


I listen to a range of music when I'm writing, but a lot of Daft Punk has played while I've been going through the later drafts of Number Two. Interesting that these guys are French because, apart from them, I particularly enjoy listening to French-speaking artistes when I'm writing (other times too, but they have preference over other musos when I'm writing). The reason for this is because I love the music, of course, but also, because the lyrics don't muddy the words in my head (my translation skills being way too slow - well, almost non-existent - to register more than the tone if I'm doing something else). Some of my favourites are Paris Combo, Les Croquants, Les Petites Bourettes, Emilie Simon, Georges Moustaki, Carla Bruni, Camille, Souad Massi, Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel.

Jacques Brel has been a favourite for many years and Amsterdam is one of those songs that's always had a big impact. Thought I'd track him down via YouTube the other day, when I was in need of inspiration. The gutsiness of his voice and the grittiness of his words were just what the moment needed. (The clip finishes abruptly, but still...)

Saturday, 9 May 2009


Having chosen to chain myself to the written word these last few weeks, I've enjoyed those crazy little diversions which crop up every now and then. Things which I wouldn't often pay much attention to. We've had a small flock of 7 or 8 juvenile rosellas move into the trees at the bottom of the garden for the last month. One of my favourite birds. Beautiful plumage! The adults are a stunning blend of blue, crimson, flashes of green. (This superb image below uploaded from Flickr with thanks.)

However, their presence has disconcerted the wattle birds who usually live there. The wattle birds are not only territorial, but have to be one of the grouchiest. Even their call sounds like a repetive 'Grouch! Grouch!'

While they'll usually chase other birds out of their territory, like most bullies, they're easily scared and the presence of the rosellas has sent them scuttling to the lawn outside my window... where they've discovered the pear trees and the blackbirds and sparrows and starlings and honeyeaters. Having been displaced, they now spend all their time chasing the other birds out of this end of the garden, protecting whatever bits of fruit are lying on the ground, perching in the tamarillo to keep a fighting eye on their fiefdom.

Or were, until a couple of rosellas came up to graze. Didn't hear a peep from them then. Managed to get a couple of shots, until I figured it was time to stop staring out the window and get back to the words... or even a little bit of Monty Python.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Dirt Music

Every once in a while I come across a book that I know I'm going to enjoy reading a second time. I don't let it happen very often because there are so many good books out there waiting to be met and there just isn't enough time to meet them all as it is.

E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News was one of these. When I read it, quite a few years ago, I knew I was going to indulge myself in a second reading and I did. Enjoyed it as much, if not more, and just wanted to soak it all up all over again.

Tim Winton's Dirt Music was another. It's prose to swim in. Beautiful stuff. The sort of writing you just don't want to come to an end. Recently, I found myself craving a third read and... yep, it remains a wonderful novel.

Still haven't picked up a copy of his latest, Breath, but must do this soon.