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Just to say that last Thursday I was invited to — and attended — a turf cutting ceremony for the new CLASSICAL LABYRINTH being built on the University of Kent Canterbury campus. Oh yes I was and did.

This labyrinth thing is no joke. All sorts of people are involved. The University apparently passed through the permissions in 13 days. Unheard of. Finance people nodded. Unheard of. The site is off a minor path, and the entrance will line up almost directly with the spire of Canterbury Cathedral, easily seen through the trees and down the hill.

People from learning and teaching were there. From counselling. From the chaplaincy. One of the deputy vice-chancellors. I think. Lots of other people. A gorgeous little girl in red trousers and jumper, with bright red shoes. At one point she held herself upright by holding the shiny shovel, stuck deep in the ground.

It’ll be 30 feet across, paved in old stone. Get ready, oh ye of little faith (e.g. second year students): you’re there whether you like it or not.

By the way, anyone interested will find one at this very moment  white-painted on the green grass behind Keynes College at U Kent. There for the Earthworks conference I opened on Thursday (as well! I’d forgotten both happened the same day). 

Heavens. I only just realised that both were ceremonies to do with the earth. Getting down to business.

A bit haunting. Perhaps real change is on the way….

blue sky

1) The weather today! Startling blue sky.

2) M’s health. After a surprise ‘hurl’ as she calls it (bleh) this morning, nothing. We figure odd anxiety: protective of cats, she had worked herself into a froth about them going outside. We all need a break.

3) Step count: 3,000 and I’ve got six hours to go. Slowly but surely.

4) Sight in a swimsuit tried on today.

5) The forecast for The Lakes, where we head tomorrow. GONE FOR A WEEK! Yay. And only mixed rain/sun on those nice charts. May strike lucky and get lots of walks in (obssessive, moi?).

6) The picture and article in the Gazette about Word on the Street, which did appear today. Again, rather jolly. Unfortunately not online that I can find, so you’ll just have to take my word (on the street) for it.

7) Mindset before a journey. I’m usually imagining all sorts of things that might go wrong by this stage, and/or desperate to clean the house top to bottom. Neither of those things are occupying much head space at the moment thank goodness.


Two bits of unadulterated good news:

1) Saw Helena’s new baby today — stunning. At three weeks the size M was when she was born: 10lb 4oz. The familiar bleating like a lamb, feed me.

2) M got a Distinction on her violin exam. Hurray, M!


See you in a week. Have a good one.

We have a shed. Oh yes we do. And it’s been completely life-changing. Oh yes it has.

Did I jump on the chance to write about it over on shedworking? Oh yes I did. Because in the middle of MA second marking and Certificate moderating, what could be more urgent?

Anthony Delgrado might be right (not for the first time).

Here’s the thing. A long discussion with a seven year old about point of view. I mentioned M’s new obsession with Nancy Drew The Secret of the Old Clockmysteries last week or thereabouts… Now it emerges why she’s so taken with them: she feels she’s trying to solve everything along with Nancy. Ah yes. And how with Harry Potter she felt that she sometimes knew more than Harry did (because there were different scenes) and she was waiting for Harry to catch up…Ah yes again. So at the moment she loves Nancy Drew, because she’s right there with her.

I clearly remember having a similar discussion with E at about the same age, about what we know as narrative tension. This time it was over how the beginning of Brian Jacques’ Redwall didn’t grab him, didn’t make him ask questions like ‘what happens next’, whereas the first Harry Potter does. I remember him getting so excited that he took down both books and read the first paragraphs to me: see, see!

It’s remarkable how early on in their reading lives children — people — become aware of what works, and what doesn’t. For them, anyway. Which brings home with an awful crash how utterly vital it is to feed children the right books, to keep your eyes and ears open for where they are, what they might like, to keep broadening and opening out…And yet of course, my children are priviledged enough to have constant access to books of all sorts. So stupidly many aren’t.


Related to this, as part of my Canterbury Laureate brief I’m putting together a shortlist of children’s books — three categories I think, 5-8 years old, 8-12, then Young Adult. About three titles per category, to be used as ‘Summer Reads’ in the last term of 2008, put then to an online vote…Great stuff.

Any contributions or thoughts for unmissable children’s books would be gratefully received! I’ve got some ideas of course, and am spending some delicious time reliving the bookcases of my children…But I’d love to know others’ thoughts. Many thanks!


Have I ever mentioned Jolie Holland? Have I? Well I’ll mention her again if so.

E is busy searching out songs and albums for his snazzy xmas present iPod. Has started me surfing. Again.

Formerly of the Be Good Tanyas. If you don’t know her, go find her. This is one of my all-time favourite songs of hers…The first time I heard it, I wept all the way through. I mean, all the way through. Standing in my kitchen.

I’d say not the best ever version (instrumental too loud). But couldn’t resist just sticking this up.


From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.