January 30, 2014 § 14 Comments

‘I’ve been thinking about beginnings this week; beginnings and endings’.
The first line hooks me in, and I read to the end without stopping. Now I want more. Evocative, vibrant, raw expression.
Siobhan is new to writing, new to blogging. I want to encourage her, want you to read her stuff and let her know you like it. Please read on…

The Little Knife

I’ve been thinking about beginnings this week; beginnings and endings. Autumn is always when the largest proportion of people die, I have discovered, but this autumn a lot of my friends got married or engaged. All in places far away… Canada, Australia, the United States. The deaths didn’t come this year. It unsettles me. I think I’m thinking about it because it’s getting close to February. I found out that my fiancé (now ex, obviously) had potentially terminal cancer in February a few years ago. Going back six years, it’s also the month that my grandfather died. I was heartbroken.

The death of my grandfather is something that I’ve never talked about that much, mainly because the last time I saw him I was seven years old. He looks like me. I look like him… I had bright white hair when I was a child. (There’s a photo of me somewhere…

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Finding Without Looking

December 3, 2013 § 6 Comments



‘I travelled the old road every day, I took my fruits to the market,
my cattle to the meadows, I ferried my boat across the stream and
all the ways were well known to me.
One morning my basket was heavy with wares. Men were busy in
the fields, the pastures crowded with cattle; the breast of earth
heaved with the mirth of ripening rice.
Suddenly there was a tremor in the air, and the sky seemed to
kiss me on my forehead. My mind started up like the morning out of
I forgot to follow the track. I stepped a few paces from the
path, and my familiar world appeared strange to me, like a flower
I had only known in bud.
My everyday wisdom was ashamed. I went astray in the fairyland
of things. It was the best luck of my life that I lost my path that
morning, and found my eternal childhood.







December 1, 2013 § 2 Comments


‘The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.’

Jean-Paul Sartre.

And so…

November 24, 2013 § 6 Comments


A short story…can be held in the mind all in one piece. It’s less like a building than a fiendish device. Every bit of it must be cunningly made and crafted to fit together perfectly and without waste so it can perform its task with absolute precision. That purpose might be to move the reader to tears or wonder, to awaken the conscience, to console, to gladden, or to enlighten. But each short story has one chief purpose, and every sentence, phrase, and word is crafted to achieve that end. The ideal short story is like a knife–strongly made, well balanced, and with an absolute minimum of moving parts.

 – Michael Swanwick


An Undeserved Accolade

November 17, 2013 § 15 Comments


I’ve been blogging for about eight weeks now. And now I have my first award!

An ex boyfriend had a t-shirt I rather liked. It said:

Join The Army

Travel The World

Meet Lots of Interesting People

And Kill Them

The middle lines are happening, and the first and last amuse in a perverse kind of way. I have ‘met’ some wonderful, kind, talented and inspiring people on the blog, and many of them, for however short a time, are now in my life. One of them is the Author Miranda Stone. Thank you for your support, Miranda, and for nominating me. Check out her amazing blog.

And now Ten Things About Me:

  • I prefer barefoot
  • I like the thought of cities
  • I like them even more when they’re behind me.
  • The older I get the more childlike I become.
  • I know nothing, and I shall know even less tomorrow.
  • The only obstacle to success is me. BTW – what is success?
  • Love is the only thing that matters. All the rest is someone else’s idea.
  • The very best place is in my bed…
  • …or a wild place where what we are doing to the planet is invisible.

I have done lots of ‘exciting’ things in my life that only the wealthy can afford; but now cycling in the rain feels pretty damn good.

And now The List. An incomplete list of just a few of the splendid bloggers who have inspired me every day:



November 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

ImageLove is the answer to everything.

It’s the only reason to do anything.

If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it.

If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it.

Ray Bradbury

The Painting Garden

October 28, 2013 § 2 Comments


The garden in June is best expressed in watercolour. It reminds me of Monet’s paintings – particularly his much maligned, semi-abstract works crafted towards the end of his life when he was nearly blind.

I sit with half closed eyes. The shapes become indistinct, the colours overlap and fuse. The flowers are fragile yet eloquent – they know their life is brief.

This garden is not for vigorous digging now, but for gentle pruning, dead-heading and musing. Nor is it for the bright prime colours that will grow later in the year. I will use graded washes and modified hues: thin, raw umber and zinc white, with a dash of dioxazine purple for an old blousy rose, diluted cadmium red and white with a hint of black for a graceful hollyhock.

            I paint horizontally on wet, stretched paper, with sponge, a rag, and a voluptuous sable brush dripping with wash. The paint spreads and granulates, and I allow the wash freedom to express itself, occasionally directing by mopping or tilting the painting from side to side to help the paint flow. There is no detail in this painting: just a trace, a promise, an intimation of what is.

           Time slows, and I see the garden through an ephemeral mist. I try and evoke a sense of spiritual place and emotional peace; a reminder that my inner life can be like this, too.


        But my garden in August demands to be painted in oils.Time is speeding up now, and the plants that flourish in these dry conditions own the colours of the North African and Mediterranean garden. The sun does not compromise: it’s sharp, bright light mirrors the flamboyant blooms. The flowers are vibrant, provocative, vivacious – I think of Rousseau or Pollock – the shapes grandiose and architectural. The plants shoot aggressively out of the ground overnight: their vigour and hurried growth expressing the final push before the plants die down and rest.

            The colours are primary and bold. Pure undiluted cadmiums now: red for the spikes of gladioli, deep yellow for the canna lilies that hold water in their leaf hearts, and then ultramarine for the deadly yet handsome aconite. I mix a vibrant palette beforehand for I will need to paint quickly and vigorously in one sitting – the plant energy demands it. I use thick oils with palette knives: vigorously spreading, smoothing, cutting and flicking the paint to capture the bold energy of the August garden.


A Writer’s Voice

October 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

My blog is two weeks old today – just a baby. Instead of another story, I’d like to share with you how I found my voice.

How did you find yours?


Finding one’s own voice as a writer is rather like growing up. As a child one emulates those one thinks are better than you – or at least that’s what one believed at the time…

When I was about twelve I read everything by D. H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. I kind of fell in love. They became an obsession. I buried myself deep in their worlds and refused to come out until I’d read every word. I must have found what I was looking for, but I stayed hungry.

In 1997, and used to writing academic non-fiction, I had a shock. I discovered Arundhati Roy. She won the Booker that year for her novel, The God Of Small Things. It was a light bulb moment. I recognised her. I loved the way she thought, loved the way she constructed sentences, loved the way she handled the subject matter. I also recognised something else – it was if I understood what she was doing. Maybe I could do it too. So I copied her, or rather emulated her – for about twenty thousand words – in the form of a fledgling cathartic novel. But the little bird died – it got to be such hard work feeding it, and I let it fall out of the nest. It was as if I was trying too hard to be her – and so I was doomed to failure.

I learnt a lot from that experience, so I did it again and again. Over the years I devoured contemporary writers and developed a passion bordering on obsession. Most writers didn’t touch me at all, I could establish no relationship with their minds: but a few held me fast. As well as reading their work, I found out about their lives. I read many Irish writers like Colum McCann and Colm Toibin, American and Canadian novelists like Attwood and Isabel Allende; and the wonderful Asian and African writers who have emerged over the last twenty years. And I recognised something in their work that had an affinity with my own. I immersed myself again.

Then I began to steal. Not borrow, but steal. I’d take an idea, or maybe just a sentence, and run with it. Sometimes it grew and became indisputably mine, at other times it simply died.

Some writers I fell out of love with – it can be hard after all to stay friends with ex lovers; but others, particularly poets like Eliot and Hughes, stick around to be good, reliable companions when I need to touch home base.

After a few years of writing and experimenting, the balance between reading and writing changed. The books lay about largely unread, and I began to write more. I starting breaking the rules I’d learned, and realised I’d started making up my own. Then it started to happen: my writing voice flourished. The strange thing was I didn’t like a lot of the stuff I had written. It took me a while to realise what was happening – I was still refining that voice. It was changing – it had to change. So I decided to be kind to myself – I stopped reading fiction. I read travelogues, books on art, gardening – anything that interested me. And I just wrote for the love of it.

Today that voice isn’t that different from before – but now I know it’s mine.


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