Prize winner at Lincoln Book Festival 2020

Prize winner at Lincoln Book Festival 2020

Since lockdown began I’ve been focussing on my novel Governor’s Man, and neglecting my usual short story writing. Then along came the Lincoln Book Festival 2020 flash fiction competition. The challenge was to write a complete 50-word story about the Lincoln Imp. Those of you who’ve visited Lincoln will know of the little gargoyle who sits perched on top of Lincoln Cathedral, staring down at passers by. Locals regard him as malign; he’s been blamed for all sorts of mishaps over the centuries, from housefires and miscarriages to sour milk.

Continue reading “Prize winner at Lincoln Book Festival 2020”

Life in the Time of Coronavirus #13: Weirdly over the top

Life in the Time of Coronavirus #13: Weirdly over the top

27 June 2020

Last time I promised you my review of the remainder of the Rotherweird trilogy, by QC and fantasy writer Andrew Caldecott. So I’ll begin with that, and then see how you like the segue into my catch-up on Covid-19 and our illustrious Government’s part in its downfall.

Continue reading “Life in the Time of Coronavirus #13: Weirdly over the top”

Life in the Time of Coronavirus #12: Moving On

Life in the Time of Coronavirus #12: Moving On

It’s been a while since I wrote in this blog. Sorry about that.
It isn’t that I haven’t been writing. I have – up to 1500 words most weekdays, escaping into the world of my novel Governor’s Man: the Bronze Owl. Third century Roman Britain, the south-west to be precise, with excursions into Londinium and Rome itself. It’s a surprisingly alluring haven, despite the lack of central heating and Netflix. Actually some of the scenes do feature central heating, for which my policeman/detective Quintus Valerius is endlessly grateful given the vagaries of the British climate.

Continue reading “Life in the Time of Coronavirus #12: Moving On”

Life in the Time of Coronavirus #11: Could you hang on a sec?

Life in the Time of Coronavirus #11: Could you hang on a sec?

24 May 2020

  • When I began this blog theme, back in mid-March, I may have made some sort of commitment to keeping the column a politics-free zone. I had, after all, spent much of my time from June 2016 to December 2019 blogging endlessly about Brexit and my part in its downfall. (See my Brexit blog theme, if you can bear to.)
  • Continue reading “Life in the Time of Coronavirus #11: Could you hang on a sec?”

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus#10: Outlook uncertain

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus#10: Outlook uncertain

    10 May 2020

    I should probably confess that I’ve been cheating. Nothing horribly criminal, but the time has come to change my ways.

    The scary NHS letter two million or so of us received back in March told me that I should not pass over my own threshold till mid-June at least, on pain of likely death. Don’t pull your punches there, NHS, I thought. However, I will now admit to you I have been sneaking regularly up the ladder and over the back garden wall, where we have our own access directly onto one of the Malvern Hills. For the past seven or eight weeks I’ve been easily able to dodge oncoming walkers and have kept a good social distance by dint of avoiding narrow paths and those used by cyclists. On weekends, we’ve been taking to hidden paths that very few people know of, on the wooded western side of the Hills. We’ve never seen a soul on those quiet weekend walks, and I really valued the relief from being locked away.

    All that ended last Friday. Someone – I’ve heard it was our esteemed Prime Minister, but surely not? – somebody told the press on Thursday that social distancing was all jolly-well going to end on Monday. The right wing newspapers immediately bigged this up as if it was the Great Escape, and surprise, surprise, the cooped-up British nation burst its bounds onto the sunlit uplands of freedom. And onto the having of a wonderful long Bank Holiday-VE Day weekend. By the time I’d climbed up too many trees to get away from at least twenty other walkers (and a horse) on my supposedly secret paths, I realised the game was up. I’ll have to toe the line properly – no more woodland walks. Or run the risk of more than a “little flu”, to quote the helpful Mr Bolsonaro. A few tears got shed on the way home.

    So I was well sorry for myself by Friday evening. I then received an odd email from an elderly acquaintance, which smacked of phishing. I rang her to establish that yes, she knew, and yes, she had a helpful neighbour who had talked her through how to sort out her email account. We chatted on for a bit, and I realised that I had no right to feel under-privileged. Due to her age, my friend is also in purdah till end June. Worse, she lost her husband late last year, and lives alone in a flat with no garden. She was cheery and accepting, quite remarkable. I was left feeling thoroughly ashamed of myself. Determined to do better, Anne of Green Gables style.

    However – there’s always a but with me, isn’t there? – I would still like to know what, if any, planning and provision is being made by our Government of All the Talentless for me and the rest of the Two Million. I don’t actually expect to hear that any thought has been given to us, but it should. If we, and the people who are shielding us, are to be locked away till there’s a vaccine, I want to know that at least our existence is being recognised. I want us to be properly represented in discussions with Government, to have our case made in Parliamentary debates and at PMQs, to be acknowledged and properly provided for.

    My great fear is that with all the competing pressures, social and economic, and given the government’s propensity to lack any foresight and to be tightwad with the truth, our country faces recurrent waves of infection and fatalities. The only way to stop the virus killing more of us is to get right on top of test-track-trace, right now. If we don’t, there will be more deadly mayhem and very little chance of good evidence-based advice for any minority, including the Two Million.

    So I won’t be holding my breath at 7.00 pm tonight. But I will be thinking of my cheerful friend, so much more vulnerable even than I am. I’ll be sending her all the good wishes I can muster.

    [picture credit: good free photos.com]

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus #9: more on writing my historical novel

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus #9: more on writing my historical novel

    3 May, 2020

    This weekend we’re all waiting to hear from the Government how and when the lockdown will be eased. So, as I’m still in limbo with nothing fresh to add – apart from how long my fringe has grown this week – I’ll share a bit more about the writing of my historical novel, Governors Man.

    It’s a sideways step, via a short story. Bear with me.

    Very soon after my visit to Taunton Museum (as related in my blog of 26 April), I found myself standing on a bumpy muddy slope, looking north to the Shapwick nature reserve. The main fold of the Somerset Polden Hills was behind and above me. Under my feet were the remains of a Roman villa burned down in AD 224. As I stood there the image of a young girl sprang complete into my mind: adolescent, dark-haired, a bit on the thin side, horse-mad, bursting with energy. Let me introduce you to Aurelia Aureliana. Continue reading “Life in the Time of Coronavirus #9: more on writing my historical novel”

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus #7: Filling in Time

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus #7: Filling in Time

    19 April, 2020

    In an effort to follow my own advice, I’ve been sticking to a Monday-Friday routine of normal work. As I am a writer of short stories and novels, writing is my work. (And attempting to market that writing, which is a whole other ballgame.)

    Anyhow, I quite often get asked how I go about writing my stories. So as this blog is meant to be about my personal experience of the COVID-19 lockdown, I thought it might be fun to describe the process of researching and writing my current novel, a Roman historical mystery set in third century Britain. The working title is Governor’s Man: The Bronze Owl.

    Here’s how I began the book.

    Continue reading “Life in the Time of Coronavirus #7: Filling in Time”

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus #6: Doomsday Book

    Life in the Time of Coronavirus #6: Doomsday Book

    Saturday 4 – Saturday 11 April

    I thought this blogpost would be my usual ramble through my life locked away this week. But I was reminded of something much more important, which I want to share with you. And, of course, it’s a book.

    Continue reading “Life in the Time of Coronavirus #6: Doomsday Book”