Tag: Amy Sackville

Loan deal


Today’s photograph is a self-portrait with Rosie Garland’s book The Palace of Curiosities on a bright cooler blustery day in Tunstall and taken just after midday. Some of you may have read my interview with her a few blogs back , if not then I urge you to, since then she has been nominated for Desmond Elliott Prize for first novels.

I had just picked the book up from Tunstall Library, having ordered it the other day. Luckily we still have a library service even though many branches have closed and the books on display have been cut drastically, I normally have to order books I want from the stacks or like this from new. The history section in Tunstall now seems only to have books on Hitler and memoirs from soldiers in special units (I know, The Report is based around the Nazi’s but it is more than war porn).

You may think that as an old friend of Rosie I should have gone out and bought the book, certainly if I had been still working then I would have, but I am now in the bottom 1-2% and in poverty (in cash terms). However, ordering books for libraries is equally as important as buying them. Authors get paid rights, but more than that a greater number of people may read a book than otherwise would. I regularly order new books and hopefully add to the Library’s collection.


I know that when I go into Tunstall Library the first thing I see are two stands of new books, I always look and very often find books I would never have looked for on the main shelves, for instance that is the way I found Orkney by Amy Sackville and The Devil’s Footprints by John Burnside, each wonderful writers who I now want to read everything they have written and will write in the future.

New books keep the libraries alive. The most depressing thing we hear is when the local authorities state that a library or wherever was closed because no-one used them, it is an excuse to cut what in the UK is our most important and precious arts facility.

I like buying books, but except for second hand bargains do not have the funds to do so. For me and millions of others a library is a vital resource. So please, if you are a member of a library go and order Rosie’s book or any book that friends have written or you think can add to the artistic life of your community! Eventually one by myself…

Also today I put a couple of pages of Working up on Wattpad.


I would advise that the language is strong, nasty and the ‘imagery’ quite disturbing, but it is not gratuitous, what I am writing about is taken from conversations and observation, to write otherwise would make the scenes unreal. I would love to have some feedback and will add more.

…happily ever after.


Today’s photograph is in a corridor of the outpatients block, it’s a bit like an airport. I was there for yet another visit to the prostate department to hear results of tests, got to have more in 6 months. This was at 2pm, on a bright windy cold day.

Write what you know about.

How many times have we been advised that?

It is good advice, especially to begin with. But then we need to develop our writing. We do it, we tell stories about places and people who have never existed, we’ve never been to. Google Earth has helped, I wrote a couple of chapters which took place in Venice, I’ve never been there, but Google took me to where I wanted and an online property agent had a video going round a building for sale which gave me good detail of the interior. Those are quite useful and I used the same for a home on a beach in South Carolina (somewhere else I’ve never been) it featured a few times in Underpainting, and I was able to place characters in rooms which existed.

Those are places. Probably harder are relationships. For me it would be the relationship with your own children, it is easy to watch friends and their children as an outsider, but what about that inner feeling, inner love. I remember a former colleague saying that as soon as she gave birth she immediately loved that unknown being more than anything else, without thinking about it. And yet another had great difficulty loving her two children, luckily a quite rare thing, but part of relationships.

I am now separated, I sometimes wonder why I got married, though there were times when it was by far the happiest time of my life, in my writing I have only ever used the period of slowly moving apart (on my side anyway) and loss of attachment. I would find it quite difficult to write about the inner feelings of say a couple who had happily been together a long time, as some of my friends have been.

Happy long term relationships do not always make interesting plots and I have found in reading writers find them hard to make interesting, look at Arnold Bennett in the Clayhanger trilogy, the third book is far less interesting when the protagonists have got together. No wonder fairy stories finish with ‘…and they lived happily ever after’, happiness is actually quite boring. If we look at our own happiest periods in relationships they are probably periods when feelings of safety, calmness, certainty are to the fore.

What brought these thoughts on has been reading Orkney by Amy Sackville, a beautifully written novel about a ‘honeymoon’ and the strange relationship between two people. The writing is poetic without being complex, it combines myths and legends and memory, with the reality of a situation the first person narrator fails to understand or foresee. Quite a wonderful book.