Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Ever since I interviewed Tristan Gooley for Psychologies magazine, I have been waiting for his book, The Natural Navigator, to come out. Now I only have to hang on for another two weeks. I CAN NOT WAIT.

You can order it in advance here, but in the meantime here's an interesting article by Tristan on the difference between how men and women navigate.

Monday, February 22, 2010

WHEN THE INK RAN OUT - Fifty word photostory

After a year, libraries got rid of their computers because so many people were coming to stare at the books. Golddiggers would turn their backs on footballers if a book collector came into a nightclub. Attics were raided, bookshelves plundered. To read though was punishable by law. To write, worse.

* More Fifty word stories here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


If, like me, you find yourself nodding away to, and inspired by, quotes about writers and writing, you'll probably enjoy Jade Walker's The Written Word. She posts regular quotes to your inbox and I've loved every one so far. Here's today's....

"By living well, by observing as you live, by reading well and observing as you read, you have fed your Most Original Self. By training yourself in writing, by repetitious exercise, imitation, good example, you have made a clean, well-lighted place to keep the Muse. You have given her, him, it, or whatever, room to turn around in. And through training, you have relaxed yourself enough not to stare discourteously when inspiration comes into the room."
Ray Bradbury

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When danger comes dressed in lycra... A snap

We laughed at the first Running Guerrilla Armies. The lycra uniform was a little too tight. But then they started taking shots at walkers, letting down car tyres, hijacking buses. There were reports of Marathon training camps in the wild. We’d run away, but that would be taking their side.

More Fifty Word Photostories here

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


"I do much of my creative thinking while golfing. If people know you're working at home, they think nothing of walking in for a cup of coffee, but wouldn't dream of interrupting on the golf course." Harper Lee

Monday, February 08, 2010


... Wasps taste like pinenuts

... A friend at school once told me that everyone has a double somewhere in the world but if I saw mine, I’d die. I’m still half-excited, half-terrified. Just as I like to imagine my double is.

... My heart beats over 100,000 times a day … and it only feels as if it can break

... Villagers in remote Central America still wear clothes dyed purple by the tears of sea snails

... Leo Tolstoy rewrote War and Peace eight times

... A field of broad beans in flower will smell of Chanel No 5 at night

... Women ask three times more questions than men. Really? Really? Really?

Sunday, February 07, 2010



The certificates I’ve received.

Write about a life – yours or that of an imaginary character – through the certificates received.

Try to remember them all, not just the school and university ones - from learning to swim to attending a course at work. Are the certificates hidden away, lost or displayed proudly?

You can choose to make it funny or serious.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010


His new business has caught the media’s attention. He’s had features in most newspapers. Paxman keeps chasing him to be on Questiontime. It’s so simple, they say. Why hasn’t anyone else thought of it? He smiles. Credits his ex-boss, the day he was made redundant, all his old dreams destroyed.

Thursday, February 04, 2010



Because my new novel, GETTING THE PICTURE, is about old people, I'm particularly interested in other books covering the same theme. I wasn't when I was writing it, convinced that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD was probably writing about the same thing, or had written about the same thing, and were certainly doing it better, but now the book is safely finished, I like to read how others have tackled the same subject.

Anyway, Anita Brookner's novel, The Next Big Thing is the story of Herz, a seventy three year old man who has become tired of the world. Even the lease on his flat only has a couple of years to go and everyone seems to be moving faster, quicker, and in more complicated directions than him. Of course, this is what seems to happen to all of Anita Brookner's characters, but she always does it so beautifully.

There are some special bits here - Herz's lust (he, and Brookner, call it love) for the young woman who moves into the flat below becomes a horrific moment when she accuses him of stalking her, and gets her boyfriend to come and get her key back from Herz. I was reading this chapter from the equivalent of hiding behind the sofa. Also I was moved by the unlikely but honorable friendships that spring up between fellow war emigrees, and how he is effectively elbowed out of his own flat by someone younger and more purposeful. And of course, as with other Brookner novels, London is given a starring role.

The aging process is beautifully but not comfortably shown. Here is a description of Herz's ex-wife, Josie:

This was the only sign that she too was growing old, her failure to utter a proper sentence, as if time were too short for all the formalities of normal speech. Yet she looked much as she had always done. Her crinkly hair was now grey but her complexion was almost ruddy, witness to those days spent in the open air. Her light eyes, always her best feature, were still fine, but coming upon her unawares, as he might have done, he would have taken her for some kind of mutant, verging towards the masculine. Her shoulders had rounded and grown thicker, her hands larger and less cared for. As she buttered a piece of bread he noticed that the last two fingers of her left hand were slightly bent. But it would not do to mention this, for health could only be dealt with in the most general terms.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


I made some marmalade the other day.

One of my resolutions for 2010 is to get round to all the things I've been saying I'd like to do, and last year I even went as far as buying the oranges before I got distracted by something else.

This year though, I set aside a whole morning. It was one of the best things I've done for a long time. Not least because I couldn't take short cuts. I couldn't hurry the process along, or do three hundred other things at the same time, or take short cuts. I had to concentrate on what was in front of me, and of course, as I did, new ideas came. I kept pushing them to one side though, and just keep enjoying the senses - the smells, the textures, the alchemy of the process.

And now, as an added benefit, every time I look in my cupboard, I get a thrill of providing for other people (and me!). It's something basic, and a little bit beautiful.

I hope Gillian Allnutt won't mind me borrowing her wonderful poem to accompany some of my pictures.

The Makings of Marmalade
Gillian Allnutt

unripe oranges in silk-lined sacks
sow-bristle brushes
china jugs of orange-washing water

one big bowl
pith-paring knives, one for each woman

a mountain of sugar, poured slowly
a small Sevillian well

songsheets against the tedium, in parts
pine cones for burning

silver spoons for licking up the lost bits
a seven-gallon pot
a waxed circle, a sellophane circle, elastic
small pieces of toast

And here's the recipe I used from the Abel and Cole website, trusty provider of most things that taste good in the Salway household!

Seville Orange Marmalade

The simplest and best-flavoured marmalade!

1 kg oranges
a lemon or two if you have them
2 kg granulated sugar (don't worry, you won't be eating it all at once!)
2 ½ litres water
muslin square and some string

Cut the oranges and lemon in half, then squeeze out all the juice into a jug and set it aside. Next you need to get what's left of the oranges and scrape out all the pips and the pith (the white stuff on the inside of the skin) and put it onto the square of muslin cloth. This may sound like a fiddly job, but the pith and pips contain a lot of pectin, and pectin is what allows the marmalade to set, so the more of the orange you can use the better; you don't have to get every last shred of the pith though! Using a long piece of string, tie up the cloth to make a bag containing the pips and pith. You should just be left with the skin, which needs chopping finely.

How to cook it:

Put the water in a big pan, and add the juice from the oranges and lemons. Tie the muslin bag to the handle of the pan and allow it to bob in the water. Add the orange peel to the water and simmer for two hours until the peel is totally soft. Remove the little muslin bag and pour the sugar into the pan. Allow the sugar to dissolve completely (it needs to dissolve properly over a low heat so it doesn’t burn later).

Turn up the hob temperature to a high heat, then squeeze the muslin bag out into the pan and stir in the liquid (ie the pectin) that comes out. Cook the marmalade at this temperature for 10-15 minutes, then check whether it sets by putting a small blob on a cold surface like a chilled plate or even an ice cube! You'll know it's set if it goes wrinkly when you push it with your finger. If it doesn’t then keep cooking it for a few more minutes, checking it again every so often.

Once it's done, leave the marmalade to settle for quarter of an hour. While you're waiting you can sterilise some jars by putting them in a big pan of boiling water for a few minutes. Dry the jars, but before they cool, spoon in the marmalade and seal them straight away! Keep the marmalade in a cool dark place once you’ve finished, then invite some people over for brunch to show it off!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Missed Opportunities - A Snap

The times she’s said no outweigh the times she’s said yes, but yes is heavier. She longs to be free, to follow every whim, but she knows the cost now. So she shakes her head, mumbles two letters as she goes. Nononono. She feels grounded. Too solid to fly anywhere.

Read more:

* Rolling Stones

* Caged

* Bait

Monday, February 01, 2010


Here's a writing exercise for you to play with.

We are conditioned to talk a lot nowadays about what we know, but what don’t you know? What questions have you stopped asking but have never found out the answers too? Why cats were thought to have nine lives? Who invents the names of cars? Is there really a maggot in every raspberry? A pot of gold under the rainbow? Is the red you see the same colour red as the red I see?

Go on and on writing a list of as many things you don’t know as possible.

In fact, keep on until you fill a page.

Now take your favourite one, and write the answer.

No, you won’t know it, not exactly.

In fact, you will just have to make it up.

See also:

* How to Write.