Monday, August 23, 2010


William Blake famously said: Great things are done when men and mountains meet.

So I'm off to Kilimanjaro to meet my mountain. I shall see you all when I get back.

Wish me luck, and here's something for you to watch and listen to...

Sunday, August 22, 2010


She planned it before he died, so at the right moment they took his body away. The drop of blood they returned was bigger than she expected, but she hung it up in the sitting room, and turned to the fashion channels. No more sport, she whispered. My turn now.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010


She sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but she’s been comfort eating so much she can’t get out. And it’s safe with her chocolate and her sweets. So she watches the light thinking that tomorrow she’ll change her life. But now, she’ll sit here. Eat some more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


He fell over in the middle of the labyrinth. They said it didn’t matter, but he stumbled again as he got up. For the rest of the week he felt lost. It was as if he was blindfolded. He dreamt of walking round. And round. There was no way out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I am pasting and copying the whole of this email from the Azaaz organisation about the floods in Pakistan in case you are like me and want to help but are not sure what to do or where to go...

Dear Friends,

A humanitarian catastrophe of terrifying proportions is unfolding in Pakistan, with a fifth of the country under water, and millions of people homeless and desperately needing assistance.

Some relief efforts are underway, but the international response to the mega-disaster has been irresponsibly slow and weak -- the UN has urgently appealed for $460 million of vital aid, but just 40% has been delivered.

Relief workers warn that without an immediate increase in aid the death toll could sky-rocket. We can help by sending funds directly to the most reliable aid organizations, and by pressing our governments to step up their efforts. Let's show our leaders what generosity looks like, and demand that they join us. Click here to send a personal message to key donor governments

And click here to donate to the relief effort.

After visiting the flood stricken areas, a visibly upset UN General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon, said “This has been a heart-wrenching day for me. In the past, I have visited many natural disasters, but I have never seen anything like this.”

Thousands of towns and villages have been washed away -- roads, buildings, bridges, crops. Now people are stranded on tiny islands surrounded by flood waters. With no clean water to drink, cholera, diarrhea and other sicknesses are on the rise, threatening the millions of people who have lost their homes and livelihoods.

The international response so far has not matched that of previous large scale disasters. Organisations like UNICEF and WHO have said they lack the funds to provide adequate assistance.

The governments of the world need to do more, and we can lead by example. Let’s stand with Pakistan at this time of crisis, and ask important donor governments to do the same.

Click here to donate.

Click here to send a message.

Our community has risen to the challenge of awful disasters before. In 2008, Avaaz members raised over 2 million dollars for the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. Earlier this year, $1.4 million was raised for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Our ability to move quickly in times of crisis can make the difference between life or death for people struggling to cope with disaster. Let’s show the people of Pakistan that people and governments around the world stand with them in this awful crisis.

With hope,

Luis, Iain, Mia, Ricken, Paul, Giulia, Ben, David, Graziela, Pascal, Milena and the rest of the Avaaz team

More information:

UN Chief’s heart wrenching appeal for Pakistan flood victims.

Pakistan floods fail to spark strong global aid.

Death toll rises from Pakistan flooding.

Avaaz Burma Cyclone relief --

Avaaz Haiti Earthquake response --


It is like a visual art installation in which each message is an image or object we can pick up in our hands.

You all know the Bookeywookey website, don't you?

It's a brilliant place for book reviews and interesting people and things to do with the mind. Just my kind of thing, and it's been a great joy to me that its creator, Ted, has become a friend since he read and was so kind about Tell Me Everything a couple of years ago.

But that didn't make it any easier when I knew he was going to review my new book. I wrote to him saying that he should say what he thought.

And then I regretted it but luckily didn't send the email saying 'Actually I didn't mean that. Say what I think....' or something worse.

But hurrah, hurrah, he 'got' it.

You can read the review here, but here's some of what he says:

The novel's leitmotif is a photograph and a negative, if you will: the superficial versus interior knowledge of another person. The snapshot one gets when knowing someone only from the outside in a single context, versus who they are inside, who they are when they relate to their intimates, who they are to themselves in their fantasies, and sadly, who they become when there is no one to whom they show their deepest selves. As a literary device the letters and messages are an appropriate form for this novel in that they are like snapshots, you need more than one to know the whole story. And while a nude picture is literally revealing, it does not necessarily give the viewer an intimate relationship with the subject. However the subject themselves possesses that whole story and so posing for that photograph feels a kind of risk, perhaps akin to the risk we take when we tell someone we love them, or the risk artists take when they put themselves into their work. That is the reverse image contained in the novel, the risk that it takes to be known. This is not just the artists' journey, it is everyone's and this novel's message is that the risk is worth it.

And in other happy dancing showing off news, last week on twitter, William Gibson tweeted that he had Getting the Picture on his reading list and then I got an email saying that a certain British philosopher is planning to take it on holiday with him. Not going to name him because the names are dropping fairly heavily in this post already (Oh but OK, if you insist, A d B may be some of the letters.... )

Anyway that's probably enough of the showing off now, Salway. Back to happy dancy writing!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


One of the posts I've had the most personal responses to recently was one in which I mentioned my shyness and the cure that's helped me, Bach's Rescue Remedy.

I posted this photograph on Facebook as a joke about my forthcoming Kilimanjaro preparations, but it does seem to make a difference for me.

And here are some of the other things that help me overcome shyness when it comes to readings and public speaking etc ...

1. Making a note of all the things I've missed in the past because of it. And how much I would have enjoyed them. So I don't want to miss more in the future. Do I?

2. This tip I read which is that a speech should contain a fact, a feeling (created by talking about the senses) and an action. Just thinking about how I am gong to include this gives me some kind of structure apart from just panicking.

3. Remembering that no one else notices how nervous I am. Just bluff it out and smile. Also remember that people actually want me to do well. They are not the enemy. Although strangely easy to forget this sometimes.

4. In my head unless I'm careful, I often have a scenario going on about how I'm going to trip over, that I will start crying, that ... etc etc. The strange thing is that these thoughts are almost a little comforting - as if it's not really going to be as bad as that. How could it be? But that's all a bit negative, so I try to think instead about what people (the audience) want to hear. How can I give them that? Just replacing the first scenario with this calms me. Gives me something other than myself to think about, because it's not about me anymore. It's about everybody else. I remember listening to a talk by Dr Wayne Dyer in which he said that he sat in his dressing room before any presentation asking 'how could he serve'? Well, I don't have dressing rooms, and I'm not so sure about the serving, but I like the sentiment.

5. Have the first few lines ready, and prepared. And how I'm going to finish. And to practice this a few times in front of the mirror. Smiling. And bluffing it out (with a few drops of rescue remedy to hand..).

What tips do you have? Let's compile a list.

Monday, August 16, 2010


They prefer to live in the past. Of course, they’ve heard about televison, how strangers can come in to your house, how sometimes people cry over these strangers. But the villagers can’t understand. It’s busy enough already. In each family enough drama. In each house enough talk. Real connections. Love.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


One of our highlights during our trip to Ghent was a visit to the S.M.A.K. gallery, and not least finding this amazing room for kids to hang out in - The Factory.

With comfy chairs to watch art videos, or just to read one of the art books in the bookshelf...

A table to use for drawings and art, or even to draw on!

And because it's called 'The Factory' (love this collage of words, btw, I think I should paint it on my own writing room wall!) ...

It had its own Andy Warhol's...

Inspiring in every way!

Friday, August 06, 2010


Thrilled to be able to talk about Denton Welch and the meaning his book Maiden Voyage has for me on Norman Geras's blog recently.

You can find my piece here.

Also thrilled to get this wonderful Amazon review for GETTING THE PICTURE from Tania Hershman too.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Harry doesn’t really believe the hairdresser when he says this is the latest cut. Even when he sees the result, Harry leaves a tip. The laughter in the salon follows him out to the street. A child points at him. It’s good to be ahead of fashion, the hairdresser said.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Finding poetry outside book covers makes me happy.

Even though i couldn't understand what they say, and one of you may write in to tell me they are actually an advert for toilet paper, these poems in unexpected places.

Let's have more poems.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

CAUGHT IN THE NET - a 50 word photostory

He wants to know how she found out. He was so careful. But she accused him straight away. He hadn’t even got into bed. She doesn’t say she saw the grid marks on his naked body. That she recognised the chair he’d got them from. That she’d sat there too.

Monday, August 02, 2010


We've just had a weekend in Ghent (our compensation tickets for getting stranded in Brussels in the Eurostar pre-Christmas disaster). Nothing better for me than wandering round a new city and getting a creativity fix.

One of the things I love doing is searching out independent artisans, craftsmen and artists, and this time we got lucky when we walked into Els Robberechts's hat shop (I can't seem to link to it, but here's the website - or second time lucky, try this.)

That's my new hat she's got on the counter by the way. She gave me a little lesson in how to be a hat wearer, and although I'm not sure I'm there yet, I'm looking forward to experimenting, especially with such a beautiful one.

And she allowed us to peek into her studio upstairs ...

Just as exciting, we met her husband, the master tailor Aravinda, who showed us some of the secrets he hides in his ties. Love it - these are exactly the women my character, Martin photographs in GETTING THE PICTURE. And I shall look at all tie-wearing businessmen with a new curiosity.

And to reassure Els if she happens to see this, this picture below is definitely not going to be the fate of my hat. He obviously wasn't wearing his right...