Thursday, December 28, 2006

Knightly Aspirations

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Noble Excellency Barbara the Coherent of Bumpstead under Carpet
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Another one just for fun, picked up from Hedgie, Julie and every one else!

I think this meme generator picks up on the fact that deep down, we all like to think of ourselves as faintly noble and raised from the general masses in some respect.

Wearing a ridiculous name is one way of establishing it.

The difference between 'it's' and 'its'

I always know before opening the envelope of a returned submission, whether I've been successful or not. It's the thickness you see: the thicker ones generally indicate failure and the thinner ones, a degree or two of success.

Today's return was a failure - and the briefest of notes on the typed letter pointing out the difference between it's - it is, and the commonly confused its - the possessive, which it seems my internal editor never quite got the hang of. And tucked behind the refusal were the poems, first of which included the offending piece.

My guess is that the editor read this one, and probably didn't read the rest. I'm not sure whether re-submitting other poems to the journal will prove productive, as I've probably tarnished myself with that particular editor - forever to remain 'the person with the problem with grammar.'

Even with my trusty Strunk and White, Elements of Style for reference, there will always be that time that I make boo-boos. For this I blame, if there should be such a thing, my imperfect English on the cross-cultures in our house: two languages in circulation seem to have made for a poorer grasp of both sets of rules!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Not quite there yet - But!

Many years ago the megalithic passage tomb of Newgrange used not to be so strictly looked after as it is these days by the Irish Office of Public Works.

It used be that you could *ahem* access the site on the winter solstice to view the shaft of early morning sunlight as it entered down the main chamber and struck the back wall, illuminating the whole chamber with a soft reddish-orange glow.

There is a story in my family that we went there one year, my Mum, Dad and baby me, accompanied by some of their other hippy/student friends to witness the event.

Alas, I was far too young to remember this!

Nowadays you can only access the vault on this special day, through a lottery system – and of course the weather is never guaranteed to perform as wished either – this is Ireland after all, home of the ‘soft day.’

Newgrange megalithic passage tomb is part of a wider area of megalithic mounds to be found very close to each other in this area, which is just south of Drogheda on Ireland’s eastern coast. Knowth, and Dowth mounds each have their own story to tell, and Knowth in particular has been undergoing extensive archaeological digs and explorations in the last ten years or so. Dowth was unfortunately ‘blown up’ by an overenthusiastic mound hunter in the 19th century, leaving little for modern archaeologists to work on.

If you ever happen to be in Ireland and want to explore this area, there is a very good Interpretative Centre, Brú na Bóinne, located just across the river Boyne (plenty more legends about this river – but that’s for another day), which runs bus trips to these sites and guided tours, explaining what has been discovered about these mounds and postulating all the current archaeological theories.

I could sit here all day and come over all celtic about Newgrange, telling the legends of the area, and how the mounds came to be viewed as the homes of the Sídhe, but instead, I’ll just direct you to these other two sites: and Mythical Ireland and let you discover some of the jist of it. Especially interesting is all the discussion of what the highly abstract symbols inside the tombs just might mean!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Snapshot, 1974

Satsuma scent and Old Spice
set off jingling bells in my head
I see the picture clearly now.
Spruce pine baubled with
vivid blues, reds and gold.
Tinsel fronds that furl through
every twisting uneven branch.
Tin foil star hoisted,
attached to the top-mast.

I am forever seven
in that photograph.
With much brushed hair
polo-necked and trousered.
I proffer my gift forward
Like an Eastern Princeling,
smiling on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Results are OUT!

Finally the day arrives - we students log on to the message board in dribs and drabs, all nervous. And then the cry comes! "The results are out - go check the OU website!"

So we all do - and can't get in! And spend ages logging in and out... the tension builds, tears are shed, and the-e-n - there's a wee back door that I push gently on the website - I'm in!


I passed both courses, doing better on the 20thc Lit course than on the 19thc novel course. Well blow me down!

I am now the proud owner of a basic Literature degree, to be upgraded to an honours when I complete the last calming year in - wait for it- Creative Writing! Imagine - a whole year writing, and earning points towards my degree!


Now, I'm off to...
clean me house,
wait for the plumber to come and fix the upstairs sink that the kids have broke,
wipe off the wet stains on the dining table where the leak fell,
wash a few hundred items of clothes,
supervise homework,
cook dinner,
go to work,
empathise with 40 moaning mobile phone customers,
...and get pissed later on!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Coven of One - Review - finally!

We are used to thinking of novels like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice as the über typical bildungsroman, or novel of personal development, where the feisty heroine endures hardship and attains maturity rewarded by their just desserts. But what happens when you combine the esoteric genre of fantasy with the bildungsroman? Coven of One by Kate Bousfield is one answer.

After the intriguing prologue, the scene is set with Dorcas Fleming, the heroine, about to graduate from her thoroughly long education and embark on her first witching placement. Life is only just beginning for Dorcas, as she is despatched beyond the normal boundaries of her known land. Initially, the pace of the novel reflects a rural perspective: nature is lovingly invoked without being overly wordy and the slow build up to Dorcas’ departure is justified by the incorporation of additional exposition which is essential to later plot development.

Bousfield’s created world holds intact for the most part in her novel. The successive trials and tribulations of Dorcas’ sojourn with the heathen unbelievers of the foreign land are not only entertaining but explore our own deep-seated beliefs about the ‘other’ in society. What happens when seemingly opposing forces come together within a feminine context? Rather than war, there is resolution through communication, understanding and good old-fashioned feminine wiles, as Dorcas wins the confidence of a deeply mistrustful community through the women-folk first.

Coven of One as a debut novel reflects a world carefully crafted from imagination and reality, with a superb writing style and a sure voice. All characters are vividly painted: most especially Dorcas. Bousfield draws on sea-lore, herb-lore, witchcraft and much, much more in this novel. Without giving too much of the plot away, it is enough to say that although this novel fuses realism with fantasy, it is neither too clever, nor superficial, it bears re-reading and the dramatic climax of the book is well executed.

Following Dorcas’ development to emotional maturity through this ‘other’ world definitely enhances reader’s enjoyment. Fantasy works on a level that some readers may find difficult to reconcile with fiction set in the contemporary world. But sometimes the imagined fantasy world created, reaches from the ordinary world we inhabit to beyond it, credibly stretching our notions of what is possible. Magic can, and does happen in real life (although that may depend on your own point of view) and perhaps that is the best satisfaction of all.

This is highly recommended reading for a wide range of age groups, whether a young adult or more mature reader. It is to be hoped that Bousfield’s imaginative world houses other characters and novels for the future! Available from Opening Chapter.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Over the River and Back again

Well - that was an interesting, if action packed weekend! I only wish I had more time to spend over there. Minx' second launch went very well for her first novel, The Coven of One, and there was great support from other authors and bloggers. The best bit, was the blogger, enthusiam, who had just read about it that evening and hopped on a bus and arrived!

It was great to put faces to some the blogs I have been inhabiting this last while. Hi skint! And Debi, and the Minx herself! And of course I bought lots of lovely books, to support the authors who guested at the evening.

The venue itself, The Crow on the Hill, is a wonderful example of a really interesting independent bookshop, run by people who know their books and know people. It's always a good sign when you keep on seeing books that you know you'd like to read... The only teeny tiny complaint I'd have was about the Fantasy section, which didn't include any Guy Gavriel Kay

The other really good thing about Saturday, was meeting up with a fellow OU colleague and talking nothing but literary/study/books/film/art stuff non-stop for about 4/5 (possibly longer) hours, whilst driving, shopping and eating (lovely, lovely Italian restaurant) in South London and then dragging said colleague off to the Coven launch that evening, when I realised I was running late! THANKS!

A really big thank you to Debi Alper and her family for the bed for the night - my only regret is not having longer to spend over there. What lovely people!

Oh, and I seem to have beta now...! *scratches head*

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Three New Reviews

Posted at Gerald England's NHI site. Just follow the links.

If you have a poetry journal/chapbook/collection just out or coming out, this is a good place to send your work to be reviewed independently.

I love receiving packages from Gerald to review. You never know what you're going to receive and it's a very enjoyable way of keeping up with what's going on in the contemporary poetry world, both in England, Ireland and further abroad too!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Going to London Town, mate!

I am going, I am going, I am going!!!

Here, in case you were wondering.

Have to go and organise some long nails and get me hair done... ooh and some shoes/boots, no boots... and maybe an outfit... or a new pair of trews... or a dress, no a top.... decisions, decisions!

I mean, I don't to be outdone by everyone else! :)

This supporting Minx business is very costly, isn't it dahling?