Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Little Poseurs

Thanks to Dave Lull for a link to some amazing pictures of snails by Vyacheslav Mishchenko!  I particularly like the one with the cobweb umbrella.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

' Writing Process' Meme

Just recently I have found a couple of new creative friends on SciTalk forum viz Elliot North - a GP and poet (you can see Eliot's post here), and Pippa Roberts.  Pippa Roberts is a playwright, an author and a publisher.  She has worked/is working with scientists from Hull and Birmingham Universities to produce plays for schools that involve experimentation and science.  She is also studying for a degree in science.  Pippa's blog is here.

A month or so ago I agreed with them both to participate in a meme about 'My Writing Process' and so Pippa duly passed on the baton to me - whereupon I immediately forgot about it.  Now, having been very politely reminded about it I am belatedly posting the said meme here... apologies Pippa.

What am I working on?

I am working on a couple of projects at the moment: I have been commissioned to write a piece of 'psychogeography' which is part of series.  Psychgeography is a little difficult to define, and I expect different writers approach it in different ways, but my way is to research the history and geography of a place and then experience as much of it as I can.  I then combine all this with interviews that further serve to evoke the place...then start the writing.  I think writing is most interesting when it takes ideas and information from places as far apart as possible and combines them.

I am also tinkering around with the very long novel I have been writing for the last four years - shortening it, mainly.

How does my work differ others of its genre?

I am aiming to emulate other books in the series which have been written by other writers e.g. Peter Finch, Niall Griffiths and Grahame Davies.  All are excellent writers, so if I can keep up the series standard then I shall be very well pleased indeed!

Why do I write what I do?

This one is a commission - so it inspired by other works and the general philosophy of the series.

In my past work I have sought to combine poetry and science or reveal the poetry of science because I think that's the best way to bring out the beauty of new ideas.

In the last novel I had published I wanted to convey a lot of things: but my main idea was that the best sort of leadership comes through love.  A point I made rather too subtly, I fear.

 The novel I'm just finishing is different again - it includes science but is also an exploration on how different people tell - or have told - stories.

I suppose I like to experiment with styles and ways to communicate - and it is this more than anything else which causes me to write the way I do.

What is the main challenge I have?

Not enjoying my research so much that I don't actually get down to doing any writing.

Many thanks to Pippa for the loan of the baton and I shall be passing the baton on in the next few days...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Another Library Cache

The good thing about researching a book about a local subject is that there are lots of books on the topic at the local library.  So many, in fact, that every is


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Chester Mystery Plays

I devoted last weekend to a study of Chester's Mystery plays.  As usual, Chester library came up trumps and a helpful librarian carted (literally, in an old supermarket trolley) a heap of ancient books from the store.  They were reference only for the most part, but I found two books on the subject as well as a DVD of last year's cycle in the nave of the cathedral.  

The plays were originally carted around the city by guilds during Whit (and before that during Corpus Christi).  Each guild was allocated something appropriate.  The Flood was the responsibility of the water drawers, for instance (Chester was never big on wells), while the Murder of the Innocents was taken on by the guild of goldsmiths and mercers since they could afford to do a good line in velvets and green taffeta for King Herod.  The spectacle lasted three days, the people gathered on the rows to get a good view.  In 2013 they were condensed into a single evening.  

Since I was able to follow a version of the plays in print 

it was interesting to see what had been changed.  Many plays were missed out completely and each seemed to be considerably shortened, even so it seemed to me that the intent of the plays was preserved (a combination of didacticism and entertainment).  Setting the plays in the nave was inspired too - coloured lights picking out the ribs of the stone ceiling - and the whole thing set cunningly to music.

The parts I found most moving were the 'slaughter of the innocents' where the bundles the women are carrying are unfurled to reveal flags - an effective reminder of the slaughter of the innocents today, and the film footage which seemed to be a nod to the 'Simon the Leper' play.  In answer to a child asking 'How can we be sure?' we were presented with Christ in the the modern city.  While children sang, he blessed today's tramps who still sleep in doorways.
The plays were first performed in 1375, and the last full version was probably played in 1577.  They were falling out of favour then, associated rather too much with dangerous Catholicism perhaps.  In their place came games and the fairground, and in 1595 he first professional players arrived in Chester to perform a morality play.

The Mystery Plays were always amateur productions - and this must have been part of the charm.  In a city with a population of a few thousand, the audience probably knew or at least recognised the cast, and I looking at this DVD I too saw faces that I knew, and to one or two could even give a name.  Everyone who wanted to take part could take part - and the same holds true today.  

Friday, March 07, 2014

St Nicholas's Chapel.

Unwrap me
and strip away my modern stone facade.

Step back
and behold my outsize roof - a pennant of brick.

Walk through my tunnel of light
and you will see nothing of me.

I am not what I seem.
Not Tudor Gothic music hall

nor Theatre Royal.

That corn market phase 

blew away like chaff.

The Common Hall alteration turned out to be a temporary adventure.
I didn't want it.

No, what I was, what I am and what I always will be is this:  
place of song

and prayer for Simon de Albo.

A whiff of incense in my walls.  

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Best Note Pads for Hodmandods

Look what I was given today.  Not just snails on the outside...

but snails on the inside too!

Like a stick of rock or a tree trunk.  I'm going to enjoy scribbling all over these.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Portpool Way

In Medieval times

the Northgate from the city

was a larger affair - with towers, a debtor's prison and dungeons underground

from where convicted men (and women) were led over a bridge to the chapel over the ditch (then stinking with fishy entrails and meaty offal, and sighed

before being carted to the gibbet to the east.

The chapel of St John's was then a hospital

for  the 'Sillie' people - or perhaps the most wise -

with 13 beds reserved for the poor

and then a school for blue-coated boys (but never girls).

Out of the city then, into the suburb,  the abbott's parish

where the taverns and inns of Bag Lane (now Canal Street)

served smuggled fish, and easy-going girls

and PortPool Way

(now Garden Lane) led

inexorably down

past cottages

now student digs.

There is still a sense

of the open air

not just the canal

but the place where the river pooled and spread

and ships from Gascony, Spain and Germany

dispelled their wine, flax and iron

in exchange for salt and skins

where today there are sheds, onions, cabbages

and a different sort of haven.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

'Science' Books?

I received a list of best-selling science books on kindle in my emails this morning.   Amazon seems to have a strange idea of what constitutes a science book...well, it differs from mine, anyway.

Of these, I would only include Quantum by Manjit Kumar with science as its focus.  The rest, I suspect, are medically-themed memoir.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Abbott's Nook

I imagine myself a medieval monk


running an errand for the abbott

racing through his nook

...and time.

His chapel becomes an inn

while along the lane that led to his windmill

is a new-build for the recently-retired.

'The best is yet to come,' promises the hoarding

- looking to the past.