Friday, 20 April 2012


He was tough – I remember one summer we were surfing off the north coast of Devon, and he slashed his bicep open on some rocks. Back at the beach house while Mum fixed our tea, Dad calmly sewed up the wound himself. He designed and built every house I grew up in, and countless others for people all over the country, converting barns and restoring listed buildings. He owned construction companies, timber yards, his hands were hard and strong from working, his nails always dark with grease from stripping down a Jeep engine, or from building work. He painted beautiful oil paintings. He worked from dawn til well into the dark every night, ankle deep in wood shavings in the workshop, or his head bent over the drawing board in the office, always with Radio Four playing in the background. He was smart, part of Mensa, and he did a science degree just for the pleasure of learning. He rarely read fiction, but made an exception for my first book. He was uncompromising – I remember him handing a vegetarian dinner guest a spade and directing them to the vegetable garden. He didn’t suffer fools. Once, in a hotel, he felt that the woman at the next table was staring too much, so he calmly ate the flower centrepiece. He taught me about the countryside – about wild flowers and animals. He rescued injured birds, had a wild owl as a pet. He taught us to swim in the rivers and salmon ponds, to surf, to drive a 4x4 off road, to draw, to play chess. He believed in tough love – when his beloved gun dog was dying of cancer, rather than take him to the vet, which the dog hated, he took him out on one last pheasant shoot, and shot the dog himself. He was married to my Mum for over forty years. For ten of those he fought cancer bravely, and with strength. Yesterday, my wonderful Dad died, and I can’t believe yet that he’s no longer here.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Every day

I write with a cat basking on the warmth of the printer, and a small pug snoring softly on my lap. It's wonderful having a dog in the house again, and the place finally feels more like home. Which is important, when home is also 'work'. Do you write every day? That was one comment that stuck with me from the Emirates Lit Fest - one of the moderators said during a session: if you're not writing every day perhaps you're not a writer. What do you think?

Less than a week after finishing the new book, I find the ideas for the next one are humming away in the background as I catch up on six month's worth of real life - reading, seeing friends, relaxing. One of the things I had on the 'to do' list was Pinterest - are you on there yet? Come and say hello - I built a couple of boards for 'The Beauty Chorus' and 'The Perfume Garden', and lost a whole morning exploring the site. It's great - if you tend to think and write visually as I do, it's a lot like the storyboards I build for each book. Living in a desert sometimes feels like one long visual/emotional fast - I find you are hungry for colour, and nature and beauty. There's something really life enhancing about Pinterest - just one image after another that means something to someone to lose yourself in. See what you think.

TODAY'S PROMPT Pinterest is The Next Big Thing, and growing at an incredible rate. If you're thinking of giving it a try, there are some excellent tips for writers here: and here:
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