Two of my favourite literary works.  Imagine my surprise then when last week these two great forces met.

On Monday I went to see the NT’s streamed performance of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch.  Not the best Hamlet I’ve ever seen- you’d have to go a long way to beat David Tennant and, back in the day, Ian McKellan, but the great pleasure for me was hearing the words .  Little did I know that I’d be hearing at least some of them on Coronation Street when Mary and then her (probably)new beau played by Ted Robbins say:

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.

Serendipitous or what?  Can’t recall who the script writer was but I do know that two of the script team are  old boys of the school where I taught and of that I feel very proud.


i know I’ve been remiss on the blogging front, but that was just because I was so frustrated at not getting posts to look good.  Now all that is in hand and soon  it will all look spectacular.

In the meantime, Penarth’s own Book Festival runs this week and   on the 17th of October , local -ish writers are getting together at an event called Local Authors Showcase  to meet the public and any aspiring writers out there to talk informally about their  books  and the business of getting published.

All Saints Church Hall on Victoria Square from 10-12. A free event, tea , coffee, raffle ( books as prizes, naturally).


Feeling very guilty at NOT blogging for far too long- not because I’ve nothing to say( as if!), but because I have so little faith in the look of these blogs.  Will definitely do what it takes to make my blog look more appealing – if I can find out how.

However, today I  would like to talk about last week’s All Wales Comic  Verse competition, finals of which were held at The Priory. Caerleon, Monmouth.  Thrilled to be among the finalists at this tremendously fun event which I didn’t win a prize at but where everybody was so friendly and where the winning poems were such a hoot.. As one of my visitors said afterwards, “I haven’t had so much fun in a tent on a Sunday afternoon since 1984.”

On the advice of a few people,I’ve added my poem here for your perusal.  It really needs to be performed – as did they all- to get the full flavour but  I have no video footage ( thank heavens!).

All other previous writing schedules now on hold as I begin Volume 3 of The Foxwood Saga, so I shall retreat to that lovely place on the Welsh Borders ( in my head only, unfortunately), and reimmerse myself in the lives of Viv, Maggie, Julia, Jeff, Lewis  et al.


There was time not long ago

I had so much get up and go

I simply just got up and went

Cambodia, Chile, Chad, Tashkent-

To desert, jungle. Ice floe, peak,

From Kurdistan to Mozambique.

I scorned the package tour, of course,

My journey was a tour de force.

No posh hotels, no B and B,

I sneered at needless luxury.


Alas, those days are gone for me,

My tastes have changed considerably.

I find I cannot take the heat,

My feet rebel. I cannot eat,

The local food upsets my tum,

My best friend is Imodium.

A coach tour’s now on my agenda

My independence I surrender.

Our guide will tell us what to see

And where to shop, to eat, to pee.

“Now don’t get lost,“ she says to us.

“At three I want you on the bus.”

We buy our postcards, pay our dues-

And then go off to find the loos.



I’m glad I did the earlier stuff,

The bungee jumps, the treks, the rough

And tumble travel in my prime.

In every life there comes a time

When trips become too hazardous,

And Saga beckons, “Come w

From cosy co- housing to the Theatre of Blood…

With the Foxwood saga on the back burner, I’m spending some time on my other type of writing- study guides and resources to help those hapless students trying to pass Eng. Lit.exams.  I’ve been doing this since 1997, publishing mostly through Coleridge Press , but also Zig Zag publications.  As the focus of the exams and their requirements have changed, I’ve tweaked and re -written.

Now I’m back in the bloody. violent and often perverse world of John Webster who I’ve always liked( what does that say about me?). the Tarantino of the Jacobean theatre .  I’ve just finished A Study Guide to The White Devii which will be out soon in paperback and I’m now revamping The Duchess of Malfi which was a triumph apparently last year when it was played in the Sam Wanamaker Theatre  at The Globe  with Gemma Arterton in the title role.  So, blood, madness, incest, torture…. A bit of a change from breadmaking, gardening and the CommunityChoir!

“Nothing is pleasant that is not spiced with variety.” ( Francis Bacon- though it could have been almost anyone- Jeremy Clarkson, Zayn Malik et al)


Well, could it live up to all the hype? This play by Richard Bean, adapted from an eighteenth century  play by Carl Goldoni ‘s The Servant of Two Masters has won all the accolades and awards going from its original production by Nicholas Hytner starring James Corden as the hapless Francis Henshall .  Since then , it has gone on  to be perforned to West End audiences, Broadway and touring  audiences all over.  The NT production at Cardiff’s New Theatre played to sell out audiences last week.with Gavin Stokes in the main role. To try to summarise the play would be pointless; it’s incidental to the stage business, the witty and topical  script( they managed to get a reference to Fifty Shades in last Saturday) the terrific performances of the whole ensemble cast and the ‘improv’ which reduced the audience to hoots of laughter.

With 60s music provided by The Craze( my two friends thought that was spelt The Krays), the whole production could not have been any better.  What a shame it is that the New Theatre isn’t a more comfortable place to watch a play.  High prices in no way ensure a good seat with good visibility.  I was stuck behind a Man Mountain and  his companion a Woman Mountain, both of whom had yards of frizzy hair so I spent most pf my time cosying  up to the woman on my right and trying to see around them.  When the Man Mountain stood up at the interval, I had the full benefit of his enormous backside ( his jeans were at half mast so I got more flesh than I bargained for) right in my face which did spoil my icecream somewhat.

Even so, this play must rank as one of the funniest you can see in theatres alongside “Noises Off” and “The 39 Steps.”


This novel is the latest in KJ Rabane’s psychological thrillers, and one that features her very appealing sleuth Richie Stevens and his side-kick Sandy who work in the town of Lockford which, given its modest size, appears to be a place  that attracts more then its fair share of crime and unexplained happenings.  But that’s all to the good for the PI’s business and for readers too who will  find the setting and the investigative duo a very pleasing element in this the third of the novels that Rabane has used them.

In this latest, the  narrative technique ( several viewpoints) allows for a more sophisticated development of both plot and character. We see the mysterious and apparently inexplicable disappearance of Beresford Archer’s wife  in a range of different contexts and find ourselves constantly adjusting our own opinions as to her whereabouts, her character  and the reasons for her disappearance.  As her history unfolds and the lives of those who know her become more complex, we have to reappraise our own responses in a way that keeps us on our toes as readers and invites us to read on eagerly to find out if our hunch was correct..  The build- up of tension and the desire to solve the puzzle is reminiscent of Rabane’s hugely successful WHO IS SARAH LAWSON,, though this current novel seems to me to be overall more skillfully structured.

I thoroughly enjoyed  this book and read it at speed, and for those of you out there who are not as yet familiar with this writer, I urge you to try her novels.  And as for the UST between Richie and Sandy- will, we see any resolution in the next book?

What Happened To Piper Archer? (Richie Stevens Investigates Book 3)


Do you like books set in a location that you know?  I do.  If you know Cardiff, you will like the journey through the suburbs, into Queen Street and out again into the Vale of Glamorgan that Darke gives us when his protagonist Martin Blake  becomes inexorably mixed up with the dark underbelly of South Wales crime.

From Martin’s safe and predicable world of banks, pensions and a comfy suburban existence, he has to adapt hinself to the mean streets sf the capital and to shady dealings with criminals who have their own moral code .  If only Martin’s life had not fallen apart so spectacularly,  and he had not needed to buy a white van….We feel Martin’s fear as this new and unpredictable life   threatens to engulf him and those he loves.  A likeable and flawed human being, he is just the protagonist favoured by writers of a crime caper and we long to see him free himself from the clutches of Leon Cooper and his minions which is why the climax to the story works so well and will have to be read in one sitting.

The pace of this, Darke’s first novel,is  lively, the dialogue crisp and purposeful, and despite the often dark and menacing world of the book,. there is a rich vein of dry humour which makes the novel immensely readable .

A real page- turner and an accomplished first novel.

The Accidental Courier
by Robert Darke
Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/14928The Accidental Courier by Robert Darke71060

A tour,a launch, and a play…

Quite a week  of interesting activities.  Firstly, a tour of the newly rebuilt school where I taught for 20+ year, St Cyres Comprehensive  ( if it’s  still called that).  Gone the dilapidated sixties building with its crumbling brickwork, its loose floor tiles and eccentric heating.  Now it’s all things bright and futuristic, apparently- techno-tastic, sleek , efficient etc.Will I even recognise it?  With my fellow ex-colleagues we ‘ll be given The Tour and I’m sure will all exclaim in wonder at the new building which looks as if it belongs in A Space Odyssey.

Then later that day, the launch of FOXWOOD- ANOTHER YEAR at Griffin Books in Penarth where I hope the turnnout wlll be good and the books will fly off the shelves.

Finally, Saturday afternoon, a matinee of ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS  a National Theatre production at the New Theatre Cardiff with pals Sue and Annette.   Oh, I nearly forgot- rehearsals for Penarth Community Choir’s selection from Les Miserables,  to be performed in the Paget Rooms on Feb 28th. Better rest up and conserve my energies for all this.  The hoovering can wait!

Book Launch-FOXWOOD – ANOTHER YEAR February 12th

Well, it’s been agreed with Mel Griffin who runs Griffin Books, our own indie bookshop in Penarth just outside Cardiff- Book launch of the second Foxwood novel  at 6pm  and I’m really looking forward to it.  A chance to give the book-signing hand some exercise again.

FOXWOOD- ANOTHER YEAR continues the story of the co-housing community on the Welsh borders where, in addition to the core of residents living ‘together but separately’, there are new characters, new alliances and new problems.

Most reviewers have commented on the humour of LIVING SPACE, the first book in the trilogy, and this I hope continues in part 2.  But there are serious issues too- health, aging – and bread making.  Not to mention online dating and Murder Mysteries.

The growing popularity of co- housing over the past five years has been phenomenal.  Isolation is a serious problem in older age for those who have always led full and demanding working lives.  The company of like- minded people can make for a more enjoyable and supported retirement, especially if one is single.   Resources can be shared, household costs kept down and skills can be pooled. And there’s always someone to help out or to have a chat with over coffee.

One of the nicest comments that people have made after reading LIVING SPACE was ‘How do I get to find a place like Foxwood to live in?’

Fear less, hope more

A good pithy mantra .  A good NY resolution- of I were silly enough to make them.  What I did resolve thoiugh, is to pay this blog more attention.  Even if no-one is reading it, the writing practice is so good, especially when I’m being a iot of a sluggard in that direction.

So where were we?

Lots of reading done over Christmas and New Year.

Not at all sure about the new Marian Keyes, “The Woman who Ruined my Life.”  As always with a Keyes novel, there is a serious core to what can at first seem like froth.  Here the serious core was, as usual  the conflict of personalities and interests in close relationships, the compatability  of teople attracted to each other, the difficulty of sustaining these relationships.  Vut her the situation is complicated by the protagonist, Stella being suddenly struck down by a crippling disease of the nervous system and what cresults from it .  The light the book throwsa s on the publishing business is ebough to make any aspiring writer run a mile and throw in their lio with Amazon KDP.!

Not sure why I found the book ultimately disappointing.  Perhaps because it fell into 2 halves, though the transitions in time were easy and smooth.  Perhaps because I never really liked Stella with her typically madcap Irish family which always seems a feature of Keyes’s books and which I always enjoy..

And talkling of books to be enjoyed…FOXWOOD – ANOTHER YEAR, part 2 of the Foxwood trilogy is now avaliable in print form through Amazon and will be launched at  my local bookshop, Griffin Books in Penarth on February 12th at 6pm.  More in later posts .

Foxwood – Another Year

There, that feels better already.  I’m back in the saddle and WILL write a post a week