Totleigh Barton – First home of the Arvon Foundation

I have stayed at Totleigh Barton a couple of times whilst on Avon creative writing courses.Its a delightful place, a real joy to live in for a little while. The courses are great too.

My drawing below is only 16cms wide, made with a 0.05 Staedler pen. I drew it to send to a friend from Japan whom I met during a writing week in Totleigh Barton.


Freddie Darke (illustrator) – Boz and the Boy

Boz and the Boy

It is March 1837. A young, heavily mortgaged Charles Dickens has newfound fame to nurture, and a family to feed. One ill-fated day, a chance encounter and a single act of kindness together leave ‘Boz’ bereft of his precious ‘mems’ – his author’s notes for a new novel, entitled Oliver Twist.
A nano-novel written by Kevin Millicheap and illustrated by  Freddie Darke, is now published and available for Kindle.

This is an interesting way to read a story, akin to wandering around Dickensian London in the bustling half-dark, taking turnings at random and coming upon unexpected scenes. The notion of reading a story from two points of view at the same time is cleverly set up, and the illustrations are a delight. Freddie’s black and white drawings are filled with detail and touches of accent colour. To quote Proving House Digital‘s press release “Freddie Darke’s perfectly judged illustrations. . .  born out of shadowy caricature, yet subtly communicating the  ambiguity of human emotions … transport the reader to the secret passageways, louche inns and tricksy nooks and crannies of Dickensian London

Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can download the free software to read the book on your computer.
Go on – buy a copy – you know you want to see and read more.

Boz and the Boy

The Chops
The Chops and Gin

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon


For the first time I braved the challenge of walking down Snowdon, I had taken the train up but walked down via the Pyg track. It was a scorching day in late July, I was with four friends, all probably fitter than I. It started off well enough, the views were spectacular, I had plenty of water and the route was well known to our leader, I was enjoying it immensely. But after a long tiring struggle – downwards walking is so hard on the knees – I was enjoying it a lot less.  Using the last of my energy I pushed on a bit faster, to end the seemingly interminable descent a little quicker. I lost sight of the others but sensibly stopped and waited. The sun was behind Snowdon and the light was falling across the ridge, I hoped I might just be able to take a good photograph as one or other of them appeared over the intermediate horizon.

I was pleased when the first one to appear was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, silhouetted against the light. Just seconds later the composition might have been spoiled by the appearance of two other walkers following behind, in fact the tops of their heads are just visible, catching the sunlight to the right.

The rest of the descent took another hour, nearly five in all but well worth it for the exhilaration, the views and that one photograph.

Roger Knight : Historian and Author – Britain against Napoleon

Roger and I have collaborated on the creation of a web presence for him to coincide with the publication of his latest book Britain against Napoleon. Roger Knight

His highly acclaimed book on Pursuit of Victory – the life and achievement of Horatio Nelson has won several awards and become a seminal work. I feel sure this book will follow a similar path.

The majority of websites I have designed have been for people in creative métiers, hence their sites are intensely visual, a site about Maritime History was a step away from that. The imagery is necessarily somewhat restricted but the inclusion of book covers, photographs from Roger’s long career and most importantly a video of him talking about is latest book brings life to what might seem a very text orientated subject.

Roger Knight - Home page

The Beehive

“The lady in front has done her hair in a beehive especially for you” I whispered to my friend. He raised an eyebrow, smirked and nodded. The woman in question was taller than most, her head filling much of the space between my friend and the screen. The up-do had been carefully prepared, an exemplar of plaiting, twisting, pinning and backcombing and finished off with half a can of hairspray, the surface glistening with minuscule crystallised droplets.

We marvelled in unison as the film show began, filling the auditorium with blazing light and turning the beehive into a silhouette framed by the most perfect glowing pink ears.

London Literary Festival

The Southbank Centre is hosting the London Literary Festival in May. I have attended a number of events, I listened to authors reading excerpts from their novels for World Book Night, its so interesting to hear from the horse’s mouth how the words and phrases sound.  Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon read from his novel The Curious Incident of the  Dog in the Night-time, I also saw the play recently, a masterpiece of staging and acting.  I have also seen him perform a monologue “Swimming and Flying”, he spoke for an hour, moving from memoir to pithy comment, to voicing of fears and witty remarks with a flow and sense of everything fitting together that is remarkable. He performed a new piece at the Hay Festival this week too, I wish I had been able to go.

Last Monday I went to an evening of readings by the 10 authors short-listed for the 2013 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE. The authors read in their own language, a fascinating to hear words, sounds and accents so unfamiliar, and then actors read the same text in English.

Peter StammPeter Stamm read his piece in both German and English, so interesting to hear the same voice in both languages.

Pip TorrensThe actor Pip Torrens read for several authors who could not attend in person, he has a marvellous rich mellifluous voice.

Lydia Davis Lydia Davies was announced as the winner on Wednesday at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her stories are marvellous fragments of vitality, she conjures up complex witty scenes with just a few sentences. She is at the forefront of a new movement in short story telling. The form has certainly come back in from the cold. I feel encouraged to write more. . .

Yesterday, I spent the whole day at the Southbank Centre, attending three events. Roman KrznaricRoman Krznaric’s How to Find Fulfilling Work, was all about finding that place where our talents meet our values, he led us through a kind of 10 point plan, and I discovered that I had indeed followed that plan instinctively and unknowingly during the last decade.

Alesander Hemon Aleksander Hemon – The Book of My Lives, was born in Sarajevo, he was visiting Chicago in 1992 when war broke out and has not been able to return. He told us of how it feels to start a new life in a different language and country. He is a very witty man and warm man. I can’t wait to read his other books too,  I bought The Lazarus Project.
Rupert EverettIn the evening  was an Audience with Rupert Everett, he is such a wit and has perfect timing. He is a delightful writer too, his books are filled with snippets from his life eloquently portrayed. He was also the perfect gentleman when it came to signing books, I was third in the queue for my first signing, then I went back again for a second, right at the end of the queue (which was at least 45 minutes long) and he was just as attentive and solicitous as the first time.

Berlin April 1947

All that we found of their existence was a crumbling box in a dark corner of the abandoned apartment.  Inside, a pencilled diary and a dress of grey folded neatly its white pique collar spoiled by spots of rust from the pin of a cheap brooch. As I read through the pages, I felt the cloth of the dress between my fingers and a vivid scene played out in my mind. Late 1942, a young woman abandoned and alone in the once grand apartment of her Jewish employers. It was almost six months since they had been dragged away to their awful fate.

Each of the few people she had known had by now disappeared from the city.  She starved a little more each day, the money had run out and everything worth anything at all had been stolen from the ravaged rooms.

At last she was befriended by a soldier who brought her food and broke up the shutters and doors for firewood. They lay in the flickering light clinging to each other. Her pale straight hair spread out over the pillow while she thought about how she might have died silently in the dark with no-one left to mourn her passing.