(As I publish this I have just heard Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter Judith Kingham will be on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour tomorrow to talk about the centenary of her mother’s birth and the re-issue of the short stories. It really does seem as if she is getting some proper recognition at last)
On Sunday 1st July BBC Radio 4 aired the Bookclub programme recorded to mark the centenary of the birth of the novelist Elizabeth Taylor. I was lucky enough to be one of the thirty or so people in the audience to join David Baddiel and James Naughtie in the discussion of her best known book, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. I asked two questions, and both were included in the final version of the programme which, although little to do with my contributions, was in my view one of the best Bookclub programmes for some time. Most Bookclub programmes involve living authors, but to the BBC’s credit this did not deter them from showcasing the work of one of the best writers of the 20th century and one who is too often overlooked.
David Baddiel came to Elizabeth Taylor’s work whilst researching his latest novel The Death of Eli Gold, and has described her as ‘the missing link between Jane Austen and John Updike’. He is an enthusiastic reader of her novels and has written the introduction for The Sleeping Beauty, a book that is very far from a fairy tale. His views were strident and I was grateful he responded positively to my questions. One woman sitting close to me was shocked when he completely disagreed with a point she had made. For an author who wrote of the minutiae of middle-class lives she can elicit passionate responses in her readers.
Posted in Random musings on family life, love the universe and everything, Reading, Writing
Tagged A View of the Harbour, BBC, BBC Bookclub, bbc radio 4, Books, David Baddiel, Elizabeth Taylor, Hester Lily, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, reading, Virago, Writer Elizabeth Taylor, writing
Julia Copus, with ‘Julia’s Rose’
Last Saturday I spent three hours in the company of some of the nicest people I have ever met. It was our reading group ‘farewell do’; a chance to say goodbye to one of those happy episodes in life that seem to come along just at the right time.
As adults, how often are we read to? The joy of listening to a great story seems to end with childhood; but why should it? There are good reasons to read to our children and they don’t only relate to the comfort and closeness built up around the bedtime story. It engenders a love of words; develops the imagination and encourages little ones to enjoy the sense of inclusion in a carefully woven tale that can take them to places they have never experienced. Why shouldn’t it be the same for adults?
In 2010 the Royal Literary Fund established, as a one year nationwide pilot, a number of reading groups. Unlike book clubs, which often ask members to read a set novel before a meeting, each week our group listened to our group leader – poet Julia Copus – read a short story. We would then discuss our responses to the piece, have a break for a cuppa and a biscuit and then listen to a poem carefully selected by Julia to reflect the themes expressed in the story. Again we could comment, perhaps choose one of the group to read it again. We were a group of like-minded but also very different people, from different backgrounds, but the atmosphere was wonderfully non-judgmental.
Posted in Book, Dandelions and Bad Hair Days, Poetry, Random musings on family life, love the universe and everything, Reading, Writing
Tagged Books, Elizabeth Taylor writer, Julia Copus, Poetry, reading, Reading Matters, Royal Literary Fund, short stories, writing
Watching, as the waxy flowers fall
into the scattered gravel of the summer
garden; it seems the world, the weather and
a clouded view conspire to damp
the spirits. Her fingers leave the glass.
She turns into the room to work
another minor, tepid miracle.
Suzie Grogan 2012
I have been struggling to concentrate on any one aspect of my rather heavy workload at the moment. Marketing Dandelions and Bad Hair Days is a priority and I have another book to research but there are lots of those more routine things that seem to sap the life out of the working day. Time management is a real challenge. Procrastination is the very devil to resist.
Earlier in the year, when we had a spell of fine weather, I got far more work done than I have recently, when I am forced indoors by teeming rain and cold wind, rather than sitting at the keyboard voluntarily. I can’t sit out in the garden with an afternoon cup of tea, catching up with the reading I long to do. My mood lowers with the cloud, which then obscures my ability to see what is important and get it done. The simplest tasks are made harder by the fog that seems to creep onto the pages of whatever I am trying to write.
Posted in Dandelions and Bad Hair Days, Poetry, Random musings on family life, love the universe and everything, Writing
Tagged flowers, low mood, mock orange, philadelphus, Poetry, Rain, weather, wind, Work, writing
I haven’t written about John Keats for a few weeks and have been meaning to start a series of posts on his circle of friends; many of whom were key to his development as a poet. However, an article via a Google Alert caught my eye last week and having read a little around the story, it is so unusual and the meaning so obscure (for me in any event) that I wanted to share it on this blog. I think it raises some issues about how inclusive both art and poetry are, and who the work involved is actually aimed at and why. I hope to elicit comments from those interested in poetry or art; both or neither.
In 2011 a devastating earthquake hit the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. Although shocks are regularly felt across the country, this was of such magnitude that it devastated the city. Many of the buildings are having to be demolished, leaving patches of wasteland waiting for the city authorities to authorise a rebuild.
However on one such area now sit two life-sized bronzed bulls, atop two concert grand pianos.
Posted in Art, Keats, Random musings on family life, love the universe and everything, Writing
Tagged art, Christchurch, earthquake, John Keats, Keats, New Zealand, Poetry, sculpture, sculpture exhibition, venice biennale, writing
Yesterday I made the trip from Somerset to London to meet Sarah Whittingham, author of the wonderful Fern Fever and Wendy Wallace whose recently published The Painted Bridge is my favourite fiction book of the year so far. Although we were looking forward to much tea and cake and friendly chat we were there to visit the wonderful British Library Exhibition Writing Britain: From Wastelands to Wonderlands.
It is brilliant, and I would recommend it to anyone who can make the trip to see it before it ends on 25th September. Exploring how the rural and urban landscape has influenced, shaped and inspired some of Britain’s greatest poets and authors to create classic works of literature (right up to the present day) it includes original manuscripts and early editions of work from Chaucer and Shakespeare to G.K Chesterton, J.G Ballard and J.K Rowling. To see the original handwritten copies of Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland; the tiny handwriting of Emily and Charlotte Bronte and the flamboyant flourishes of Ted Hughes was exciting and inspirational. And of course there was the original letter written by John Keats to his brother Tom during his trip to Scotland in 1818…
One of the pieces that Sarah Whittingham and I found most moving, as we went round to see the exhibits we had missed earlier when we had to retire for tea and lemon and poppy seed cake is the following poem by Harold Pinter. I am sure Wendy would have loved it too, had she not had to leave early, as it is a wonderful tribute to an English teacher with whom Pinter used to walk the streets of London. Joseph Brearley died in 1977 when Pinter wrote this, recognising the influence of the man who taught him during his time at Hackney Downs School.
We have a lovely 5-year-old black Labrador x Collie dog called Barnaby. Apparently ‘free’, in that we had him as a puppy following a friend’s dog producing a surprise litter, he has, in truth, cost us a fortune. There have been the regular vets fees with various illnesses and he has doubled our bread bill, having shown a predilection for sliced brown. But we love him dearly – most of the time.
The only time that love has been tested recently relates to the following recipe. It is, I believe, for perfect flapjacks. Having combined numerous suggested ingredients from numerous cookery books, old and new, I have found that a recipe my brother-in-law Michael suggests can, only slightly amended make really juicy and (almost) healthy bars full of good things. And as you will find out later, dogs love them.
I don’t usually post recipes because there are so many wonderful food blogs out there already and I know my limitations. But this is practically poetry; and having made a batch today I wanted to prompt you to do the same.
‘Let’s pretend they’re good for us’ flapjack squares
Apologies for the rather dodgy pun in the title but what an exciting day! The book Dandelions and Bad Hair Days is awaiting the final touches and a foreword from the charity SANE (who have seen and read it and been so impressed that they are happy to endorse and support it) and today I am able to launch the official DABHD website. (DABHD is the acronym and #DABHD is the twitter hashtag – the full name is rather too character-hungry!) Apart from the fact that I obviously need to have a new photo taken - the one on the site it is everywhere as I am one of those people who generally look frightened or frightening in photographs – I am really pleased with it.
For those who are new to my site, Dandelions & Bad Hair Days is a collection of poetry and prose on the subject of mental health written by more than twenty people who have experienced mental illness – either personally or as a carer or friend. Many of the pieces were written for the mental health monthly guest post slot on this blog, with additional material by other talented and creative contributors. I wanted to publish the book to be something of a ‘support group on your bookshelf’, offering personal experiences that are inspirational, emotional and uplifting and which show how mental illness really can affect anyone – even those who feel themselves immune. And I hope it will help raise awareness and be a worthy addition to the public campaign working to ensure anyone affected is treated effectively, with respect and without discrimination.
Posted in Book, Dandelions and Bad Hair Days, Mental health, Writing
Tagged anxiety, blogging, Books, DABHD, Dandelions and Bad Hair Days, depression, mental health, Mood, website, writing