Sketches of The University Interlude

My Fluid Self: My search for a narrative

In Gil Scott-Heron’s autobiography there are scattered poems, new and old. Unsurprising given who he was. But reading them was surprising. It was pleasing to see rhythm that grew from the page and didn’t fit into, or get trapped by, the guarded confines of poetic metering. The structures of the poems were precisely aligned with their meaning and tone. I thought then about his effortlessness in pitching the self as a photo negative of larger conditions. I hoped then, and still do, that I would find a coterminous instinct in my writing. I read the poems and I tried to bounce in loose synapses of a private silence a few improvised lines. A few prototype rhymes of mimicry. The first step is to master the masters and then create, or so an artist probably said according to a motivational meme. Those words that shot up like fireworks soon dissipated that…

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There Are No Right Words.

On Grief, Loss and Bad News…

We have all had that call.  The one that comes out of the blue and shifts our world to a new, unknown, place.  The call that might not be totally unexpected, but suddenly rips the life raft of hope from our hands.  It leaves us floundering, drowning.  Facing a future in which our life is changed irrevocably.  Forever.

I have received that call.  I would do anything to have never had it.  To have not heard those words.  “…is dead.”  “…won’t make it.”  “Nothing can be done.”  “At least there’s time to say goodbye.” I think we have all heard them, by the time the threshold of ‘mid-thirties’ is passed.  Death becomes a way of life as we say goodbye to grandparents, parents, family and friends.

As age creeps up on me, the calls become more common.  The pain remains as rare.  The sense of injustice never changes, nor does the futile hope the doctors are wrong.  Medicine will work.  A cure found, a life saved, grief averted.  Life will carry on and that one person shall still be at the end of a phone.  I will always be able to call them.  Tell them how much I love them.  Laugh with them and hold them close.

Until I can’t.  The call comes and life changes.

It’s natural to want to scream and deny the reality.  But we can’t be ‘selfish’; there are others affected.  Spouses, children, parents, family, cousins…the list seems endless.  There are, quite swiftly, no words that can be said and no way to take away or ease the pain of all those who shall be left behind.  As the grief builds there’s no right thing to say.  There is no right way to deliver the news; no right way to receive it.

No right way to be the one left dying, surrounded by dozens, maybe hundreds, of people who have to face a new altered future.  That has to be as hard, if not harder.  Being the one knowing time is nearly up, knowing it’s time to leave.  Not being able to stop what is going to happen.

Age, in this case, gives no answers.  Death, as ever, gives no dignity.  To be told we are losing someone hurts.  It cuts into a heart and saws at emotion with a serrated blade.  We put down the phone, we sit, stunned, and we try and adjust to the news we have been given.  Be it a friend we grew up with, a friend we made at work, a friend we have slowly grown close to through the internet…none of that matters.  The grief is still real.  Still there, choking us.

Reflection brings memories.  At first they hurt.  It’s easier, less painful, to push them away.  A flash of a smile can bring us to our knees, crying afresh.  Eventually, though, they bring comfort.  We welcome them and hoard them.  We make them, knowing that we are planning for the day their face, voice, words, aren’t there for us.

We say goodbye, slowly.  Knowing the end is coming, we build our future and pray we have enough memories to pull out and examine, when they are needed.  We stand, wait, hope, help, love…all the while knowing there are no right words.  There is nothing that can be said.  Nothing to ease the weight of loss.  We hold each other and cry, laugh, smile and remember.  We visit funeral parlours, choose music, plan wakes…making sure everything is ‘just so’.

Or we wave goodbye as an ancient V.W Camper is packed to the roof with painkillers, clothes and quilts, holding back our tears as that final adventure is embarked on.  We might be privileged enough to be party to the Bucket List and grin at the thought of paddling in the icy waters of Morecambe, eating potted shrimps from a pot; watching a sunrise in the Scottish Highlands; being in the presence of The Gutenberg Bible; just holding hands and watching the tide come in…small things that will leave memories.

There are no right words.  There is no right way to say goodbye.  Yet we manage to speak silently and express every word we need to say, without uttering a sound.

And we remember.

Here is my interview with Kathleen Kerridge

This is my interview with the lovely Fiona! I’m very stunned and pleased to be asked to interview.



Name Kathleen Kerridge


Age 36


Where are you from

Southsea, way down at the arse end of England, in Hampshire.


A little about yourself; i.e. your education Family life etc  

I am a married mum of four with three children still at home and a lovely dog called Neffie.  I work as a full time writer and cook a lot.  I’m educated to AS Level – I fell pregnant at 15 and had my eldest, then just when I thought I was safe, I went back to college at 24…and fell pregnant with my youngest at 25.  I have no desire to go back for a degree and get child number five.


Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

I went accidentally viral with my third ever proper blog-post and have created a small tornado of feelings and divisive sentiments…maybe it’s a good thing, though.  I…

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Robin Williams: A lesson in life, not depression.

A few pertinent words from my editor. With love.

My Fluid Self: My search for a narrative


I woke up and in keeping with an unhealthy routine rolled over and checked Facebook. The first post I saw was aghast at the death of Robin Williams, the second revealed it was alleged to be suicide, and with that I predicted the flood like a Nine-to-five Noah. I read on, irrationally, to the third post. It was a quote of an anecdote from Watchmen;

Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says “But Doctor… I am Pagliacci.”

As poignant as it is, applied to the life of Williams it is a misnomer, casting him as the desolate trope of the tragic clown…

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A Weekend Of Daleks And Angels.

A Weekend Of Daleks And Angels.

I’m a bit of a secret (okay, not so secret) nerd.  Or is that meant to be geek?  I can never remember, although I have been told the difference enough times.  I think I am maybe both.  Anyway–I went to Cardiff last Friday, because in those Welsh mountains, nestled amongst the castles and sheep, is the Doctor Who Experience.

Doctor Who scared me as a small child.  Cybermen gave me nightmares and I think, but can’t be sure, it was banned in my house because I really suffered from some doozies.

That’s neither here nor there, though.  When the good Doctor came back to our screens, I watched.  I sat in my living room and watched every episode on Virgin’s Catch-Up service.  Ecclestone? Yup – loved him.  Tennant? Oh, yes please.  Matt Smith? Took a bit of getting used to, but, yep – loved him too.  Capaldi? I adore the man.

My daughter loves The Doctor too.  With a passion.  So, it happened that for her 16th birthday, we could be found posing alongside Cybermen and crouching to pat K-9.  My daughter ‘drove’ the TARDIS (and crash landed it); stole a crystal from a Dalek (and woke it up); wandered through a forest of Weeping Angels and, at the end of the day, saved the world.  It was great fun, well done and had just the right amount of terror/peril.

The backpacker Hostel we stayed in was pleasant.  If you’re on a shoestring budget and want to be in the centre of Cardiff, then I recommend the Nomad…just don’t expect frills–there ain’t none.

All in all, I would go again.  Maybe just for one night, though.  The prices are inflated, the tourism expensive and the streets haven’t been cleaned since the paving was laid down in Cardiff Central.  Seriously, it’s black and has more chewing gum attached to it than Wrigley’s has produced this century.  If you’re thinking of a visit, do yourself a favour and go to Cardiff Bay.  Get the bus from there to the centre for the castle (if you want to pay £22 to walk up some steep steps, of course), and to go to the huge mall the city centre boasts.  Be prepared to spend a serious amount of cash–it’s super expensive.

It’s worth a visit.  Just go prepared to be a bit, well, bored.  There’s not much to do.  The lady at Tourist Information was bored of me by 12 noon on the Saturday (I got there Friday teatime) after already telling me five ‘all day’ excursions.  They took an hour, with my 65 year old disabled mother tootling along with her walking stick.  Also, as a side note, saying a place is a tourist attraction because The Doctor ran past it, once, isn’t really true.  It’s a rather dull shop front, really.  They sell more overpriced touristy-gumpf.  Save yourself the trip.

Drive down, spend an afternoon at the Bay (hopefully they will have turned the water tower back on – it was off while I was there), then if you fancy a drink in the evening, stay in a Travelodge before heading home the next day.  See some Daleks and pose with an angel, then drive back, pleased you’ve been and pleased to be in the best place in the world.


Exciting Times…

Exciting Times…

You may have noticed that there is a ‘new’ book on my Author Page.  An all new book, with the same title as the old one.  What’s that all about, then?

It’s been an eventful few weeks since Christmas. To say the least.

You see, my first novel, Into The Woods, was in dire need of editing.  I knew this, of course, but only in a vague sort of way. I was brand new to the authoring game and greener than the grass in the next field.  I’d written the book, had fun writing it and, so I did not chicken out of publishing it again, I literally typed the final sentence and uploaded it to Kindle.

It was both brave and stupid, in hindsight. Ah, hindsight, you beautiful beast, you.

So it’s edited, with the assistance of an amazing man, Sam Flaco.  Of course, this means that The Call of The Dark will also have a complete do-over, but now, oddly, I am looking forward to the process.  It’s fun.

It was a leap into the unknown, when I hit that PUBLISH button.  Luckily for me, most people I have encountered have been nothing short of lovely.  I don’t mean a little bit nice, either.  I mean welcoming me into the fold with open arms, guiding me in the right direction, helping me when I got stuck.  All that and more.

I was able to get invaluable feedback.  Most people, knowing it was a first book, were constructive.  Some were not.  The ones who weren’t, well…it took a few weeks to realise that not everyone in the world is nice; that some people just enjoy hurting other people.  No, I don’t mean they gave a bad review.  Bad reviews come with the job, so they were expected.  I mean the people who thought they were clever in directly contacting me to pull my work apart.  The ones who have not grown past senior school (maybe they are still there) and think being mean is fun.

A heads-up.  It’s not as funny as they think it is.  It truly does hurt to have to be the victim of someone else’s ‘cleverness’.  To have to look at a deliberately evil ‘critique’ and be expected to be able to shrug it off takes a thick skin, a few tears and a fair amount of Pinot Grigio…

Most people, however, showed what beautiful souls there are out there in the world.  One reviewer was in contact with me for the three days it took him to read Into The Woods to point out my typos and errors.  He made my day. (well, night, really—he’s in the USA and I’m in England.  Our conversations happened at about 3am for me, but it was still great.)

Anyway, this brings me to the importance of editing.  A lot of the mistakes I made were avoidable.  They would never have been printed, had I taken the time to ‘sit’ on the manuscript for a few weeks, read through it, be critical and, crucially, check the bloody thing over for errors.

The new Edited edition of Into The Woods is miles away from that first, unlooked at, manuscript that was uploaded to the world in a leap of faith.  I will always treasure the first edition, though.  I can look at it, see its mistakes and learn from them.  It is that manuscript that, in spite of the bed reviews, gave me the courage to keep writing and keep learning.

It can be picked up for free here:  for the next few weeks.  All of you who took the time to read the first ever novel of a brand new author, I thank you.  Please accept the Edited Edition with love.  If you can take the time to review it, that would be marvellous.

As for me, would I go back and edit first, had I known?  That’s harder to answer than you might think.  Yes, it would have meant that I would have had a polished manuscript, but I wouldn’t have learned half as much as I have.  I would still have a thin skin—but for an unedited manuscript, I think the stupidity and bravery paid off.  It gave me confidence.  It made me friends.  And people enjoyed it, despite its failings.

That, above all else, has to be the most important thing to remember.


Thank you to Jay Aheer for the fantastic new cover!