Monday, March 22, 2010


I've been debating about writing about this here, but particularly in view of the last few posts about love and old age, it seems right.

My amazing dad died last week after fighting so bravely and if it's possible, lovingly. He really was, as one of my beautiful nieces called him on facebook this week, a 'legend'.

This week, his close family will be sharing our memories of him, and although it will be sad, I think it will also be a celebration. Not least because the story of my mum and dad has always been a love story, and he's missed her so much over recent years. Once, when they were both in different hospitals, they got us - their middle-aged children - to carry love poems and letters back and forth between the two of them. How lucky could we be?

And now, here are three of my favourite childhood memories of him to share with you. Collecting them for this blog makes me appreciate his sense of humour and fun all over again.

1) He had a passion for Eric Morecambe (he even looked a bit like him):

2) Is it possible to beat this Harry Worth window trick? We didn't think so when we were kids anyway. Maybe I'm just imagining it but I am convinced Dad used to do this too. I know going anywhere in public with him was a mixture of pride, pleasure and deep embarrassment. He couldn't pass anyone by without striking up a conversation with them and trying to make them smile. One of his favourite jokes was to try to sell us in shops when we were really small. How we laughed.

3) I always remember him playing Johnny Cash loudly in the car, and whenever this particular song came on we knew the words well enough to shout it out. Dad often used to wind down the windows too so we could really let go on the bit, 'My name is Sue, how do you do?'. Still can't resist it now, and it was a joy to hear from a school friend over the weekend who remembers this vividly too. We all need some gravel in our guts and spit in our eye....

I'm not sure how often I'll be blogging over the next couple of weeks, but I'll definitely still be running the competition. That judging panel are prepared after all, and I can't tell you how much I've been reading and rereading all the lovely quotes and comments I've received. Thank you. If you would like to send more, you know they will be read with gratitude and care. You can't celebrate love of any kind enough, and it's a fine collection we're gathering here, competition or no competition.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Can you tell I'm absolutely loving this?

Anyway... my next invited quoter is Tiffany Murray.

She has not only written one of the books I've enjoyed most for a long long time but it features one of the wildest old woman I've read about recently. And I thought my Mrs Oliver in GETTING THE PICTURE was wild.

Diamond Star Halo is completely enchanting, every bit as good as I Capture The Castle, and even Cold Comfort Farm - two of my favourite books so that's a big claim for me. Tiffany's main character, Halo, was born to be a drummer. Literally. When she was born she bounced off some drums in her parents recording studio. She lives on Rockfarm in Wales, which is just that - a farm for rock stars - and it's the story of what happens after an American band come to record there. Or more importantly, who is left behind after the band have gone.

Music runs through it, which isn't surprisingly when Tiff's biography drops in about how part of Bohemian Rhapsody was written in her house when she was a child. Here are her choice of the ten best Rock'n'Roll novels.

Anyway, as I said, in Diamond Star Halo Tiffany has created the BEST old woman ever. Here's what she says about her...
Nana Lew, who from the age of seventy to one hundred years old, has a live in lover, Rhysie the postman, (a man who delivers more than her letters). Nana has a red silk silk petticoat. Nana worships Johnny Cash.

Yes! I love her!

She also has her very own capel lined with bones*.

(*Nana Lew, that is, not Tiffany. I don't think so anyway.)

And Tiffany has chosen two songs for the competition.

The first is Old Friends/Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel. She says, "since I was a kid I've always pictured this song as a short story about two old lovers (I think some songs are the best short stories)." And the bit of the lyrics she picked goes:

'Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust on the shoulders of the old friends.'

Tiffany comments: "There's something so beautiful about two old lovers sitting there as the buzz of the city whisks about them."

and here's her second...

Oh, does it get better?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


So many great quotes yesterday. Thank you! And keep them coming ... we need to give that judging panel a proper challenge. If I say that they are giving up a regular bridge game for this task, you will be able to understand just how seriously we are taking this competition!

And, as an extra, I have asked some of the people I find continuously inspiring for their own favourite quotes. First up, is Danielle LaPorte, who is ..

(That postcard above is from her own line of stationery, by the way. I have it on my wall and it always makes me smile. You can find out more here)

As well as her website, and her national television slot, and her consulting work, Danielle is currently working on a book aimed at jolting entrepreneurs up to the next level. I can't wait for this because I've experienced one of her firestarting sessions myself and it was electric. SO many good ideas, and she made me think about even my writing in a whole new way because what are writers if not entrepreneurs?

Here's Danielle's favourite quote about love. And this is what she says about it: "the simplicity and grandness of this always break my heart a little":

Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
- Walt Whitman


You can leave your quote for entry to the competition either at the bottom of this post, or the previous one, or email me at sarahsalway @

Monday, March 15, 2010


So, as mentioned in the last post, my third novel GETTING THE PICTURE comes out at the end of this month.


It's the story - in mostly letter form - of love, life and sex in an old people's home. The genesis of it began when an elderly woman turned to me at a poetry reading and said she hoped she would never get too old to cry over love.

I suddenly realised that I did too, but more importantly that I had only really thought of writing about love in youthful terms before. And once I started thinking, I realised how limited that approach was.

Publishers Weekly have said this about it:
'Salway (Tell Me Everything) refutes the adage about old dogs and new tricks in this breezy epistolary novel set in a British retirement home. Not that the residents of Pilgrim House don't know plenty of old tricks already: Salway's appreciation of her characters is refreshingly nonpatronizing—her oldsters have rich and naughty pasts, but live in the present, very much alive and eager to gossip, conspire, and seduce... relationships and characters evolve nicely in this lighthearted novel about family and lovers and the not-so-lighthearted secrets that separate them.

Anyway, now I'm offering you the chance to win one of my very first copies - signed and dated. All you have to do is to send me - either by email (sarahsalway - at - or in the comments box - your favourite quote about love and old age. It can be old, new, or you can even have made it up yourself.

Here's one of mine: Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young. Dorothy Canfield Fisher

I'm compiling a panel of over-eighty year olds to judge this, and they are fierce so no quarreling with them please. As we all know, and as GETTING THE PICTURE begins with: Old ladies must never be crossed: in their hands lie the reputations of the young ones. (Pierre Ambroise Laclos)

My panel will pick their favourite, and the bonus is I'll put up all the quotes on the blog so we get to have beautiful words too.

And thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I asked Alain de Botton for his recently and this is what he came up with ...
Some people would never have fallen in love if they hadn't heard there was such a thing La Rochefoucauld

So what's yours?

Entries should be in by 26th March, please. Winners announced on 6th April. If two people choose the same quote, the one who sends it in first, gets to enter - but I'll let the second one know. You can enter as many quotes as you like!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Here it is ... GETTING THE PICTURE on sale at last.

And there's a competition to win a free copy on Monday. Watch this space!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
-- Mark Twain

Monday, March 08, 2010



The phone box on the corner of Claremont Road, from which I once made a call to say, yes I would like to live here


It’s Friday, it’s five to five and it’s … CRACKERJACK!


Mr Dough The Baker – the name of the shop we used to look out for on the way to the sea


Did the late Dilys Willis think twice about marrying the once handsome Peter Willis because children (like me) would snigger at her name?


Mac Fisheries fishmongers, and its big bank of ice. I always wanted to, but never dared, put out my tongue and lick the ice. It was the fishy eyes that put me off. All that staring


The plastic watch I won when I was seven for colouring a happy face on a tomato. The judges said it had the jolliest smile they had ever seen and I couldn’t see what was funny when my dad said that maybe I had found my talent - drawing expressions on tomatoes


My teddy bear (although he was never the same after my grandmother sewed earrings on him, he was a BOY for heaven’s sake. Did she know nothing?)


The greenhouse we used to have, and how I would hide in a corner to read my book but really so I could lose myself in the smell of hot geraniums



Sunday, March 07, 2010

HOW TO STAND OUT - a 50 word photostory

I don’t like to merge into the background. It comes from being one of four daughters no-one could tell apart. The first murder just brought the rest of us closer, but by the third everyone knew me. To begin with, they called me the survivor, but then just evil.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Country mouse took town mouse out for the day. They set up camp, foraged for mushrooms, and photographed wild flowers. When she got home, town mouse rang up for a takeaway, watered her orchids and reorganised her cushion collection. Sometimes you need to see somewhere different. But luckily not often.

Friday, March 05, 2010


This is how it will be. Her house will smell of fresh flowers. She will have design magazines to read. Oysters and champagne chill in her fridge. Bach plays in the background. Everything has a place. But right now, at the moment, her house lives. Loudly sometimes. But always alive.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


The first grey hair was a bit of a joke, but by the tenth she’d stopped laughing. She just yanked them out blindly. She took up skydiving, wore lycra, ran marathons, talked a bit too fast. If she kept moving, time wouldn’t catch up with her. Yank yank, tick tock.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010



I asked my son who should be plump, and he said his first primary school teacher was just right. We agreed teachers should seem plump (even especially if he or she isn’t) …

then he said lollipop ladies should be plump …

and in fact, ALL women should be plump before you reach the age of five

(What happens after five, I’m not sure.)


Pea pods


Once in Paris, I saw a small plump dog on a pink leash. When I looked closer, bits of the dog’s coat had been dyed pink. It brought me immense joy to see the plump old lady who was walking it had matching pink streaks in her silver hair. It just wouldn’t have been the same if either of them had been thin and eager. I wanted to take them both to a plump pink boudoir and feed them plump chocolate.


Airbags …

and pillows


Beach books. Ah yes, but the heroes in beach books should never be plump although the heroines can be - just a little


A plate of lasagne, oozing with plump cheese and plump tomatoes


When I was growing up, my sister used to invent all sorts of Halloween rituals to frighten me. I didn’t mind too much because it was the one night of the year she’d let me sleep in her room. When we got older, our Halloween games involved boys and unrequited love. There was always a lot of both in our house. Anyway, we gave three chestnuts the names of our current crushes and put them on the wood fire. The one that popped the first was the boy who would love us the most. It was also the plumpest one (the chestnut, not the boy)


My Christmas stocking. I’ve never seen the point of small and tasteful presents


Coffee beans. If nothing else, they reminds me that coffee is a plant and not ground sawdust


Baby’s calves, and that little roll at the top of their arms. Does no-one else feel the urge to bite?



Tuesday, March 02, 2010


I absolutely love this website I've just found which will allow you to enter the amount of time you want to write for, or wordcount and then monitor it on your behalf. With consequences (although not, I think, actual death!) if you don't make it. And a victory song if you do.

Silly, but like most silliness, surprisingly effective.

Sticking his head above the parapet - a 50 word photostory

Maybe if everyone hadn’t harassed him, Graham could stayed safely alone. But they did, and after the woman at the dating agency said it was confidential, he confessed his preferences. Then she asked for more money. I could tell everyone, she said, tapping his questionnaire with her blood red nails.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Fiona Robyn's BLOGSPLASH!

Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.


These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

Continue reading tomorrow here...