The new bike basket.

The new basket but old bike

I have an ancient Pashley Delibike, similar to the one Granville used in the Open All Hours, television comedy programme; someone once asked me what was I doing with Granville’s bike?

The bike is used primarily for my Sunday Paper rounds but also for litter picking excursions with Whittlesey Sreet Pride and occasional shopping trips.

The large wicker basket used for carrying my papers and other goods finally succumbed to the ravages of time and the base parted company with the sides. I managed a temporary repair by cutting a piece of plywood and fixing it to the frame below the basket’s base while I searched for a replacement.

It had seen better days

I tried local cycle shops, without success, Huntingdon’s Blind Shop used to sell baskets when I was a lad but they no longer do. Finally, I tried the internet. Initial searches found basket makers well out of my area and although the price for the basket was reasonable, when carriage costs were added, things started to mount up.

Eventually, I found a fairly local basket maker, Sue Kirk, based in Kings Cliffe, near to both Oundle and Stamford.

A really great improvement

After an exchange of emails with photographs and dimensions, we agreed on a price and time scale.

Kings Cliffe is a picturesque village of stone houses and in places narrow streets.

The Old Brewery Studios is on Wood Street and itself is an old stone building

of character.

I dropped the bike off in my van and left it to Sue to sort out. Two weeks later I was able to collect my bike with its new basket.

The quality is excellent and the price was very reasonable. However, the new basket puts the rest of the bike to shame, I will have to set to and bring the bike up to the same standard as the basket.

It is great to see traditional crafts still being carried on and to find such outstanding craftspeople, if you are in the market for a willow basket of any kind Sue’s studio is well worth a visit.

Sue Kirk – Willow Baskets (suekirkwillowbaskets.co.uk)

I wrote an earlier post about delivering papers and my bike.

https://fenlandphil.com/?s=Delivering+the+news

A flight of time.

Northern Soul plaque on a door

I watched two thought-provoking programmes one recent Friday evening. The first Keep on Burning, a documentary about Northern Soul reminded me of my own teenage years. My teenage years preceded the Northern Soul era and its music, to a large extent the soundtrack of those later years.

In my own case, the music I enjoyed was predominately Soul and Motown, although the Rolling Stones did get some of my attention. These special years are fleeting. I am sure for a great many of us; as the music changed, as it always does, the magic of those years is quickly lost. There has been good music since, as there was good music before but none that I felt I had the same ownership of, it could never evoke the same memories or hold the same wonder.

Keep on Burning told the story of Northern Soul, from its roots as an underground movement, (much in the way many music genres are born), to its rise and fall in popularity. I had heard of Northern Soul but knew little about it, many of the bands and singers who had performed live at The Twisted Wheel Manchester, the Golden Torch (Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent) and Wigan Casino live were the soul bands that I knew from my teenage years. Martha and the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, Junior Walker and the All-Stars, among them.

Other artists were unknown to me; I had heard some of their names but didn’t know their music.

There are those who resolutely cling to that Northern Soul era, as there are those in every generation; holding on to a time and music that is special for them, their own soundtrack. A hardcore of fans of every music genre clings onto memories, freshened by gigs where for a few fleeting hours they can relive their own time of magic. In that respect, the Northern Soul diehards are little different to those who attend Rock and Roll weekends or live only for times they can watch favourite Trad Jazz bands.

Chic photo from http://www.liveabout.com

Nile Rodgers.

I mentioned good music since; I was not a watcher of top of the pops after the sixties and listened rarely to pop music radio stations. It wasn’t until groups like Chic, Rose Royce, Sister Sledge and in a different genre, Dire Straits had been and often gone that I became aware of them. Fortunately, as they say, their music lives after them, as it has for Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and so many others.

Nile Rodgers photo Wikipedia

Chic became a particular favourite, I would search out their videos on YouTube and bought CDs. The band’s co-founder and principal songwriter was Nile Rodgers, the BBC 4 programme about him is the first part of a series. I am interested in creative people, things that inspire them and fuel their creativity.

The disco sound and scene formed the special years of another cohort of teenagers, ten maybe fifteen years younger than me although Nile Rodgers is only younger than me by a year. He would have listened to the same music as I had but went on to create music of his own.

 One of his quotes, in particular, struck me, “Find your own style, do not merely imitate someone else.”

As a writer I think I have found my own voice,  there are writers who I admire and who have influenced me but I think my style is my own, my way of seeing the world.

Nile gave an interesting insight into songwriting; with his collaborator Bernard Stevens, who was Chic’s bass player. They started their songs with a hook singing the chorus first, leaving the listener in no doubt what the song is called. The first lines of a story work in the same way to hook the reader, to capture their imagination and attention.

The reference: Drip the sugar in a bit at a time building up for when the chocolate cake comes, is much the same as: “Keep it moving action, action, feed the descriptions in bit by bit with the action.”

For me, this is how a good story should work.

Writing a book? My advice? Let’s Ask The Experts

A mention from an author I admire greatly and this after a fantastic review from the same lady, I am so chuffed.

Eva Jordan

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”––George Orwell

Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some amazing authors. Each one different, but all equally fascinating. However, I always end my interviews with the same question, namely, what’s your advice to anyone thinking of writing a book or taking up writing? So, this month, I thought I’d take some of those fabulous responses and put them here, in one helpful, and hopefully inspiring article.

The only advice that is guaranteed to be correct is to pick up your pen and begin. Then you are a writer, whatever anyone says. ––Ross Greenwood

It’s a real cliché but read. Read in your genre and out of…

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Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne, a review.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Raymond Chandler’s shoes are very difficult to fill. Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s hero is someone who has inhabited the imagination of all those who have read Chandler’s novels. My Marlowe will be different to everyone else’s Marlowe but our own original has its own presence.

‘Poodle Springs’, Chandler’s unfinished novel was completed by Robert B Parker and worked well for me; I have since discovered that Parker wrote another Marlowe novel, ‘Perchance to Dream.’ This is one I will seek out and read.

Marlowe is engaged by The Pacific Mutual Insurance company to investigate the death by drowning of Donald Zinn; before the million dollar payout is made to his widow.

Donald Zinn is an all too easily recognisable pastiche of a contemporary character, one who it appears has followed a similar career path to Zinn’s.

It was a good idea to base the action in Mexico; the location of Zinn’s demise.

Only to sleep didn’t work well for me, perhaps it was taking Marlowe out of his time and place; California’s, the thirties, forties and fifties or maybe at 73 Marlowe just hadn’t aged well. I didn’t recognise him even as an older version of himself

Other Chandler and Marlowe fans may enjoy this book; it just wasn’t a good read for me.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, a review.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The title intrigued me.

 I had collected The Midnight Library from my daughter’s, to bring home, she was returning it; it is my wife’s book. I asked her if I could read it.

The story is Nora Seed’s.

Nora lives in Bedford, regrets and depression have inhabited Nora’s life, a life she decides to end the day the things she holds most dear are destroyed around her.

Nora then finds herself in a most unusual library; its librarian is Mrs Elm, the kindly, chess playing, librarian from her schooldays. Mrs Elm helps Nora find the books to help her understand life, her own in particular.

The journey through the books in the library is fascinating, each book adds to Nora’s own story, giving her new insights and understanding into not just her life but life itself. Woven into the story is the theory of the multiverse, something that with even my very vague knowledge of physics; fascinates me.

This is the most exceptional book I have read in a long time. It is a beautiful and moving story.

Blood Sympathy by Reginald Hill, a review

Blood Sympathy by Reginald Hill

This, so far the only one of Reginald Hill’s books I have read.

Despite watching Dalziel and Pascoe on television I wondered whether Hill was of Caribbean heritage, a quick search on Google revealed that he wasn’t. Hill’s choice of a black hero, dealing with the racism of some police, made me think that he could have been a black writer.

It is difficult to write about a Private Eye, Raymond Chandler is always looking over your shoulder. Without the influence of him and Dashie;l Hammett; the genre I’m sure would be less widely populated.

This is Joe Sixsmith’s first outing, forced by redundancy as a result of his employer’s downsizing and middle age, to find something new, Joe embarked on a career as a Private Investigator. Having spent a lifetime in engineering, this was a strange choice.

Joe is a loveable character, harassed by his anxious Aunt Mirabelle, longing to see her nephew settled into the bosom of a suitable wife. His aunt’s matchmaking is just one of many problems; Joe has to deal with as he stumbles his way through cases of drug smuggling and murder.

I do not know if Hill’s fictional Luton is close to the reality of Bedfordshire’s, the one with an airport bearing the same name but it is nonetheless one that works.

I enjoyed this book immensely and will seek out more of Joe Sixsmith’s adventures.

Switching on the imagination

I thought this was worth reblogging.

Whittlesey Wordsmiths

Sunrise in the fens with windturbines A spectacular Fenland Sunrise One of the most beautiful sunrises I have witnessed

Reading is a means of switching on the imagination. The pictures drawn in the mind, the voices heard and the drama that unfolds can be as real to a reader as anything encountered in life. In many ways it is a better reality, one that is acceptable on the reader’s terms, limited by what they want to take out of it or see within it.

As writers we grope around for the switch that lights the imagination of our readers. The words though must first paint pictures in our own minds, we are after all the first reader. Hopefully these pictures will be seen in  the mind’s eye of our readers. We know they  will see different pictures to ours, pictures on their terms. The voices too they hear will have different accents to the ones in…

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A Bird In The Hand by Ann Cleeves, a review.

A Bird in the Hand by Ann Cleeves

Generally, I only watch a few hours of television a day if at all. Mostly it is crime dramas that attract my attention and they occupy most of my viewing time; my daily ration of dodging the adverts while trying to follow the plot.

I often watch Vera, a series featuring DCI Vera Stanhope as its main character, gradually becoming aware of the name of the Vera books author, Ann Cleeves. Ann is the creator of the programme’s characters. After a recent stint of writing at the local library, (I work better there) I sought out her books happening on her very first; A Bird in the Hand.

It is a very good read, excellent in fact, tightly plotted and populated with well-drawn, interesting characters. The thread that binds both the story and its characters together is bird watching, particularly the community known as “Twitchers”.

When the murdered body of a young twitcher is discovered in the Norfolk coastal marshes; George Palmer-Jones, a retired Home Office investigator is asked to help solve the crime. George is an elderly bird watcher respected by the bird watching community and knowledgeable about the people and their habits. Assisted by his wife Molly, George embarks on discovering the truth behind the brutal killing, we accompany the pair as they tour the country chasing sightings of rare birds while hunting the killer.

It is a brilliant first novel, as it was then. I now know there are many, many more books by Ann Cleeves, for me to read.

I have found a new sweet jar and I will dip into it whenever I can.

The Green Horse written by Stuart Roberts a review

The Green Horse written by Stuart Roberts

Although many of us have heard of the Spanish Inquisition few of us know much about it. The suppression of Islam and the forcible removal of Muslims, the Moors, as Spain violently re-established the supremacy of Roman Catholicism was one of Europe’s darker chapters.

Stuart has set his story in Pamplona, famous for its Bull Run and the area around it. The story is a classic tale of good versus evil, referencing the events of the turbulent and violent times when the Moors were the subject of the most horrendous cruelty. It is a fascinating blend of fantasy, psychological thriller and a love story.  

The book engages from the start and takes on a journey backwards and forwards in time, exploring the very nature of life and humanity.

A good, interesting and thought-provoking read.

The Green Horse is available on Amazon

Book Review – Killing Time in Cambridge by Philip Cumberland

A book review and a Q&A, thank you for your kindness and generosity Eva.

Eva Jordan

“AI is likely to be either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity”­­––Stephen Hawking

This month I interviewed local author (to me) Philip Cumberland (see here), who is also one of the coordinators and founding members of a local U3A Writing Group, Whittlesey Wordsmiths. As well as a contributing author of several anthologies written by the group, Philip has also recently published his debut novel, KillingTime in Cambridge, and this is my review.

The story opens with an axe wielding knight of old, dressed in full body armour, clanking down the corridor of a software company, who then hacks down the office door of the managing director, demanding to know who the ‘master’ is. The poor MD then has a heart attack, the knight disappears, and a short time later the building is besieged by medieval catapults. At this juncture, we are introduced to…

View original post 186 more words

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