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!
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?’
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 by Jan Marsh
There, that feels better already. I’m back in the saddle and WILL write a post a week
This was our Book Group’s choice for November and certainly proved one of our most popular books. Which is a pity because it’s good to have a range of opinions to stimulate discussion- like The Old Man and the Sea , The Cuckoo’s Calling and Grace Williams Says it Loud.
But we all loved this book .
It’s a memoir which covers roughly the first eighteen years of the writer’s life , from his infancy in Notting Hill- no, not the latte and bookshop millieu of a Richard Curtis film but the deprived post- war bomb sites where he lived in a Rowe Housing Trust flat sharing a communal lavatory, without electricity, from hand to mouth Added to the mix was a feckless father who left the family( Alan, sister Linda and his stoical and hardworking mother Lily) on two occasions to shack up with other women and father two more children. For many writers, eager to present themselves as hapless victims and centre stage in a misery memoir, this material would have been a godsend but not to Jonson. He tells us how it was, wiithout pulling at our heartstrings, in a matter of fact ‘ we were not the only one in this situation’ way which shows the integrity of the writer and his refusal to milk his childhood for any reasons of politics or self promotion. What this approach does is to leave the reader with admiration for the spirit and tenacity of his mother Lily and his sister Linda who, in his dedication, he says ‘kept him safe’.
As a social history the book is very evocative of post war Britain with its Teddy Boys, the beginnings of racial tension, bomb sites and austerity. Johnson emerges as a shy bookish boy with his father’s flair for music . His tone when speaking of himself is wry self-deprecating , easily identifiable in his media appearances where he declares with a knowing half smile he will not stand as Labour leader, no matter what his supporters may think..I for one am sorry
I- and the others- loved this book and want to read its sequel, ‘Please Mr Post,man.’
Sometimes in the heat of trying to promote your own book, you forget the many great books out there that you may be reading and enjoying- and often thinking ‘how can I ever write like this?’ Promoting your own books can make you horribly ego-centric so. I’ll be blogging about the books I’ve been reading- and sometimes re reading
THE CAZALET CHRONICLES
What is it about what television calls ‘continuing drama. that is so addictive?You MUST find out what happens to X- and Y’s unfortunate childhood, did that really mean he was doomed in later life?I loved the first few volumes of these books by Elizabeth Jane Howard years ago and thanks to a special offer by the Book People, was able to buy the lot for under a tenner. Still love them, love the sense of period, the interweaving stories of the family, the soicial history.
Our book group choice this month is Alan Johnson’s This Boy,the first part of his memoir . I’ve whizzed through this and it resonated with me so much, He’s my generation and though my background is working class post war, I never had such a difficult time of it as he did. But this is far from a misery memoir. The touch is light, positive , there is humour a profound love and respect for his mother in particular. The book has given me respect for him- and as he is a politician, that’s no mean feat. Loved the book and will read the sequel.
And just in case I forgot to mention it….
Part 2 of the Foxwood trilogy FOXWOOD- ANOTHER YEAR-now out on Kindle. soon to be in paperback too
Time for the second of the Foxwood trilogy to be released on Kindle , no doubt to a deathy silence .except perhaps within my own small circle . Still, it all takes time as my fellow writers are constantly telling me. and so it was/is with LIVING SPACE, the first of the Foxwood books. It was just last weekend that I had a phone call from someone who had just read it, bought from my local bookshop, and she had loved it. She herself lived in a loosely structured community;locally which as it happens I had known in another context….and so it goes on. Organic growth I suppose you’d call it..
Anyway, time for a change now. I’m putting Foxwood and its inhabitants into storage for a year or so and returning to the theatre of the 1770s to finish my historical novel, THE PLAY’S THE THING. It has lain abandoned for several years as i’d lost heart in the dialogue( too Georgette Heyer? Too old hat?. If Julian Fellowes can use ‘mumsy ‘as an adjective in the supposed thirties, does anything go now?
The Play..didn’t look half bad on re-reading so that is going to b my new project; I;m probably happier in the eighteenth century than the here and now. I will try some more traditional publishing routes for that one when I finish.
Anyway, more to life than writing, though most of what I do seems to feature it in some way- Coleridge Press is soon to become Results Study Guides and the market is expanding to China.
Will be book blogging much more as the weeks go by( writing again- other people’s ),beginning with this month’s book choice Alan Johnson’s THIS BOY which I’m enjoying very much and which strikes many a chord with me in terms of his background. More of that anon.
meanwhile, if here is anyone out there reading this blog, take a look at the link to FOXWOOD
Foxwood – Another Year by Jan Marsh
At least it was on Halloween down in the wilds of Pembs, dog- sitting for friends. At any moment on Friday night there might have been a knock on the door in the howling gale and storm force winds, and a traveller might have stood outside with the news that his car had broken down, there was no phone signal( is there ever?) and might he trouble us for a bed for the night? But that didn’t happen and Tracey’s non -weddiing on Corrie had to satisfy my taste for the melodramatic.
Still, should be getting final proof of FOXWOOD- ANOTHER YEAR this week so time to set the wheels in motion to get the word out there