Archives for Yorkshire

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Unaccompanied’ by Simon Armitage #poetry

The Unaccompanied is Simon Armitage’s first poetry collection in more than a decade during which he wrote drama, translation, travel articles and prose poetry. This collection doesn’t disappoint. It’s a mixture of familiar Yorkshire moors and sea, urban depression, Nature and human nature, globalisation and social media. His poems are accessible; at times witty and sad, they set the big questions of life against the small familiar details of every day. My favourite poem from this collection is ‘The Unaccompanied’. A walker at night stops to listen to the sound of singing, songs about mills and mines, myth and the mundane. It is a poem about heritage, about traditions spanning generations, from father to son, of the fathers that went before. It reminded me of traditional fishermen’s choirs, still popular on the East Yorkshire coast. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Wandering slowly back after dark one night above a river, towards a suspension bridge, a sound concerns him that might be a tune or might not; noise drifting in, trailing off.’ Amazon   Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find
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Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Unthinkable’

This poem grabbed me from the first line. It has action, it has colour, it has place. I could see the purple door, I could see the beach. And I wanted to write my own story about it. This is ‘The Unthinkable’ by Simon Armitage [below], included in his latest anthology The Unaccompanied.  Here is the first stanza of The Unthinkable. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘A huge purple door washed up in the bay overnight, its paintwork blistered and peeled from weeks at sea. The town storyteller wasted no time in getting to work: the beguiling, eldest girl of a proud, bankrupt farmer had slammed that door in the face of a Freemason’s son, who in turn had bulldozed both farm and family over the cliff, except for the girl, who lived now by the light and heat of a driftwood fire on a beach.’ Source: Poetry (May 2013)   ‘The Unaccompanied’ by Simon Armitage [UK: Faber] Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney ‘Alone’ by Dea Parkin ‘A thousand years,
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Categories: Poetry.

Family history: using photographic archives

Photographs are not just a record of people but of places, lifestyles, streets, countryside and the changing times. If you really want to understand the life of your relative, searching the photographic archives now available online and at your local record office can make their world seem real for you. The clothes they wore, their holidays and work days, their parties and local community.  A simple way to start is to use Google and search using ‘images’. Other great starting places are Flickr, Pinterest or Instagram. I’m currently researching London during the WW2 Blitz, and a quick search produced literally hundreds of photos. One photo may lead to a new avenue of research. A studio portrait of a family member may lead you to a particular photographer. A uniform can help you to confirm a regiment or employer. History Pin is clever in that it allows you to collect images and pin them to Street View so you build up a wider picture of the area of interest. I found Collage, the London Picture Archive, particularly useful in my focus on the capital. It has more than a quarter of a million photos of London streets and includes the London
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Categories: Family history research.

Writer, dearest

I love blog awards, everyone likes to be appreciated and blog awards are a nice way of spreading love around amongst bloggers and readers. The Liebster, for me, means love. Not sure why, perhaps because it sounds like ‘liebe’ which takes me back to my German classes at school: ‘Ich liebe dich’. So I’ve always assumed the ‘Liebster Award’ meant roughly the ‘We Love You Award’. Wrong… a quick check with Google Translate tells me that Liebster means ‘Dearest’. So, thanks to April at April4June6, for nominating me for the Dearest Award! April has asked me 11 questions:- Do you think we should adapt our demands to our means, or the other way around? If we don’t adapt our demands to our means, the planet will be bankrupt. What does writing mean to you? Everything. It is who I am, I cannot imagine ever not writing. What are you doing on a sunny day? Ideally, sitting in the sun, reading. Really, sitting inside, writing. What future memory would you like to create? Looking back to the day my first novel, Ignoring Gravity, was published. The first of a successful eries. Would you date yourself were you a person of the
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My favourite paperweights

Like most writers I know, my desk is covered in piles of paper. I have seven paperweights on my desk; all in use, all hold some particular memory for me. Newest is the SFMOMA ball-storm [below]: a rubber balled filled with liquid and coloured bits of plastic which swirl like a snowstorm when shaken. Bought at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art two years ago, it reminds me of a wonderful museum in a wonderful city. Click here for the SFMOMA website. I love stones and two large ones sit on my desk as constant reminders of my second novel, Connectedness. Both stones [above] were selected off the beach at Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire, a few miles from where I grew up, on a beach where I imagine my protagonist Justine Tree walking. For artist Justine, who as a child lived in an isolated house on top of these cliffs, the sea and the wildness of the Yorkshire coast are a constant presence in her art. Minty is an old name from the UK furniture trade and this wooden foot [below] was given to me many years ago by the company as a gift when I was editor
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Categories: On Writing.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’

John Wedgwood Clarke writes about the edges of North Yorkshire, the forgotten bits, the ugly bits, the hidden bits. He is a new discovery for me. His latest pamphlet, In Between, was written for the York Curiouser Festival, and is inspired by the snickets and alleys of old York. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’ Iron light. Fulmar and kittiwake laugh in Anglo-Saxon, ripple quick shadows over the beach. It transports me instantly to the North Yorkshire cliffs where I grew up, and the constant presence of seabirds. Cloughton Wyke [below] was one of many destinations for the Danby family explorations on Sundays, sandwiches wrapped in foil, trifle in colour-coded Tupperware bowls, orange squash. I cannot read this poem enough. For John Wedgwood Clarke’s blog, click here. To find John Wedgwood Clarke’s poems around York as part of the York Curiouser Festival, click here for a map. To listen to John Wedgwood Clarke read his poem ‘Castle Headland’, click here. For more poetry published by Valley Press, including In Between, click here.   ‘Ghost Pot’ by John
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Poetry.

The Twitter Report

Aah, Twitter… how shall I count the ways? Five months tweeting… 877 tweets tweeted, more than some [I mean JK] but a lot less than others. 629 tweeters followed, mostly authors, journalists, book world people, Andy Murray and Yorkshire Tea. No free teabags yet… For future reference, in case we meet, I’m a Tiffie [tea in first] not a Miffie [milk in first]. I was brought up as a Miffie but have been served too many cups of weak tea in my life to put up with it any longer. So I did a U-turn and have never looked back. 343 tweeters following me. Thank you if you are one of them [you will know that my tweets are different from my blog]. Stay with me, this is where it gets interesting. My followers include… Friends and family [of course]… Writers [I know, I don’t know, I admire, I long to have written the books they have written]… Book lovers [they make my world go around]… Poets [a beautiful way to give my brain a rest from writing]… Lots of people who want to promote my book, for a small fee [uhm, I didn’t know there were so many out
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Categories: Book publicity.

Inspiration… what inspired me to write ‘Ignoring Gravity’

Inspiration, a slippery thing to pin down. Finding the root, that original thought which evolved into Ignoring Gravity, is a inexact process. I was an imaginative child. I would lie in bed at night and wonder what it might be like to live somewhere else, in another country, with a different family… what if… I was a boy, or lived in a busy city, or was good at arithmetic? I started to consider, what makes us, us? If I had grown up in France not England, with a father who was a businessman not a farmer, would I be a different person now? Or have I, through my personality and life experiences, essentially made me, me?  This idea stayed with me. It wasn’t something I actively thought about, but it was in the back of my mind. I should say I’m not adopted and I had a happy rural childhood in East Yorkshire. Here I am [above] in 1964, riding Mistletoe at Burton Fleming. When I turned from journalism to fiction 15 years ago, I started to think about identity again. One day a sentence came to me fully-formed, written at my creative writing class. Rose Haldane thinks children should be
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

I agree with… Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris “When I think about why I write, I don’t think it’s very easy to quantify. I’ve always read, and I’ve always written. As a child, it seemed the most natural thing to do. But I grew up in Barnsley in Yorkshire, where I didn’t think people could actually have something like a career in writing.” Excerpt from an interview with Joanne Harris [published March 2nd, 2014] ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’  Absolutely, this sounds like my beginnings as a writer. I too grew up in Yorkshire, not Barnsley but the East Yorkshire coast where the winter wind is so strong it can knock you over. I too read and wrote voraciously as a child, everyone said I would become a teacher [as Joanne Harris did]. But I decided that to become a writer I must become a journalist first. I clearly remember an interview with the A’level careers officer. I told her what I wanted to do and she frowned, “Well you can stop dreaming about that, only the top 2% get to do a job like that. You need to be more realistic.” Suffice to say I ignored her. I went to university in London [the first from
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Cheesemaker’s House

This debut novel by Jane Cable starts with a mystery and turns into a ghost story. After her divorce, Alice moves with her dog William to a village in North Yorkshire. Newly-arrived, she walks the dog beside the River Swale and sees a naked swimmer. She watches, feeling like a voyeur but unable to leave. Then suddenly he disappears. Feeling guilty that she didn’t search, or call for help, she drives into town where she goes into a coffee shop down a side street. And is served by the mysterious swimmer. Disturbed by his presence and at the same time attracted to him, she cannot work out how he left the river without her seeing or how he got to town before her. This first mystery is followed by others, competently handled by this first-time author who draws a fond picture of life in rural North Yorkshire. My only minor quibble would be that for three-quarters of the book, the meaning of the book’s title was lost on me. If you like this, try:- ‘The House at the Edge of the World’ by Julia Rochester ‘Butterfly Barn’ by Karen Power ‘Somewhere Inside of Happy’ by Anna McPartlin ‘The Cheesemaker’s House’
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: All Points North

For me, as a Yorkshirewoman, there are many laugh-out-loud moments in All Points North by Simon Armitage and other moments which make me feel fond of my home county. But the piece that stayed with me longest was the page on ‘Writing’. Writing, he says, is “a form of disappearance. Burglars watching the house from outside for four or five hours would think it empty. There isn’t another human activity which combines stillness and silence with so much energy.” I know exactly what he means. I will be upstairs in my attic study, writing all day, my husband out, my only movement to make a cup of tea and scrounge a handful of fruit and nuts from the snack jar. When I come down at the end of the day, turning off the lights as an unconscious signal to myself not to go back upstairs and start working again, it is not uncommon to find ‘we tried to deliver but you were out’ postcards on the mat, or parcels piled up outside the front door. It’s not that our doorbell isn’t up to the job, simply that when you’re in the zone that’s where you are. If you like ‘All
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.