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It’s really very cold here. For England. We are lucky: last year double glazing throughout. Still, with the heat on, it’s chilly. 

Snow coming, weather people say. 

In town, homeless people of all ages sit on layers of cardboard. It’s just unspeakable, really. We are ashamed, but do little. Thoughts which have a regular rhythm in my life — I must go and do something about all this — occur with more frequency now. Lately, most days. And before that, most weeks.

Writing exists for me and is possible no matter what. It doesn’t need trappings.

I love teaching. But there are other things that need doing.


In this brittle morning, Schubert popped through the cat flap with a tiny, tiny wren. We flung the cat into the bathroom, and while he scrabbled and scrabbled at the door, we shooed the little bird out. At one point it flew into me, the gentlest bump, before veering outside.

(Photo by Steve Round, Cheshire, UK)


Hours later Schubert is still looking for it, roaming about. It’s the right decision, to protect what we can. But it’s not an entirely simple one.

Ever have these days?

1) Forgot my gym shoes. So had to turn around. So didn’t go.

2) Schubert gone flat. Hmm. Vet’s this pm. Suspect hairballs.

3) Even Cleo a bit low energy. Hmm. Probably just a kitten thing.

4) M a bit tearful generally. Hmm. Suspect a growing up thing. Alas.

5) Four phone calls ending in an answering machine. Within the same organisation!

6) Every single avenue investigated for publishing any of my work not accepting submissions.

7) Printer not working. So can’t send work out anyway. Ever since the whole computer had to be rebuilt over the weekend. And out of ink.

8) Mobile phone mysteriously not connecting. (To be fair, this is now fixed. Just did the old turn-off-turn-on routine… But yet another technological mishap was irritating, however short-lived.)


And I guess this doesn’t count: but I stupidly caught the side of a door with my — face! — two days ago. Man, does it hurt. No bruise yet though I keep looking. It’ll be fetchingly striped should it appear.

Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Ta da! Here she is:

Her official name is Cleome, which is apparently a flower. We were going to call her something different, but somehow Cleo just stuck. In our house, Cleo is short for Cleopatra.

She and Schubert are siblings from different litters — and her resemblance to Tilly is striking. So striking that at times we’ve all been a bit sad. HOWEVER. She is a delight, much more outgoing than Tilly, hugely soft natured, with a purr like an idling train. And obviously artistic: within 24 hours, she’d turned one side of herself red by rubbing against pastels, and dyed her tail yellow by brushing against lily pollen. (The lilies are in now in the bin. Fortunately they were on the way out anyway…)

In three days, Schubert has progressed from hissing at her with disdain, to sniffing her even while in the litter tray (yuck!), watching her from on high (kitchen counter – not allowed but somehow he’s got away with it this week, windowsills), tolerating her rubbing up against him, then tolerating a ‘tail tackle’ from her…

Then, this morning, he suddenly did a kittenish four-paw-spring, scat-catting around the kitchen, sweeping down a picture frame and telephone in his wake, ears back. Cleo chased him, hardly believing her luck.

He’s a changed kitty. He hasn’t leapt like that in months. He hasn’t sat on my desk in months. He hasn’t finished my tea and then knocked the cup off the side — in months. And now he’s downstairs rolling around, chewing a cat toy, Cleo looking on. And now — I just had to look — they are wrestling. Sniff.

Quiet celebration. As R says, a cloud has lifted.


Not that I was so confident that first morning, when I was up at 6am, struggling to feed them in different locations. And a Cleo wee on the kitchen floor. And a poo protest from Schubert, right smack in the middle of the bathroom. Lordy.

Ah well. Had a wonderful time. Am still digesting the full dinner that is three weeks’ travel. Meanwhile here is proof that the sun did shine at least once while we were away: Schubert in the garden.

Not exactly pining for us methinks!

Photos courtesy of the lovely George B. They had a lurve thing going. Texts from her went along the lines of Schoobs catching some rays just nowSchoobs chillingSchoobs eating every meal of gourmet cat food I got for him (!).

Looks like we weren’t the only ones on holiday. Thank you, George: we found one well-fed, super-brushed and super-loved cat upon our return.


Certainly to come:

1) light-fingered M

2) swallows and swallowtails

3) hornets and other buzzing things

4) pool (table and water)

5) anunciations, more saints than you can throw a stick at, etc

6) what we read (of course)

I think that the last post had some kind of magical effect. Indeed! I don’t think it’s rained since. Seriously.

However it has been one looonnng week, and once again all I can do here is come up for air.

1) Poet’s Picnic on Saturday: a good time! writers, children, hot sunshine, and the most fabulous spot by the sea in Whitstable Tea Gardens.  A real pick-me-up.

2) Also on Saturday: a real live ball! This will mean nothing unusual to Brits, but to Americans…well, I’ve always wanted to go to one, and lo, I go. Long black dress, pearls (James Bond theme), stilettos. No R, not his scene, but I gamely sallied forth, and had a great time. I went for the dancing, and did plenty, losing my shoes more than once. Ahem. Also rode on bumper cars, four times. Ahem. Took a fake pistol. Ahem. And enjoyed draping myself over the pretend casino tables. I know, I know. I’m a child. I loved it. 

3) Journeyed up to Norwich School of Art & Design on Sunday night. I’m the new external examiner there for their creative writing BA programme. Given that I used to teach there (and so enjoyed it), it was a real treat to see what everyone and everything is up to. And it’s good stuff: fresh, vibrant, almost raw work sometimes — rarely if ever suffering from the over-writing that students also studying with literature with a vengeance can sometimes produce. There is also the added bonus of text and image work, which I’ve always found fascinating: index cards arranged in months, with an entry on each day. Accessible in order and randomly. Performance poetry with video link and guitar. Art house stuff. Exciting stuff. A pity then that the course has been cancelled. While there I heard that I shall see it out examining-wise: well, I’ll try to do it proud.

I’d like to be more involved with the visual arts. But I’m sorely, sorely lacking in skills and no doubt talent in that department. Alas.

4) Schubert has slain his first creature. After several weeks of (we thought) farcical hunting (I mean, a bright white cat jogging through the undergrowth, long hair flowing in the breeze — come on!), I walked downstairs this morning to frantic calls and a little deceased vole lying right smack in the middle of the doormat. He was delighted with himself, and I’ll admit it, I felt a tiny rush of pride.

5) M plays in yet another concert tomorrow. She has a new 3/4 Italian violin, which makes a much bigger sound. Suddenly her bowing arm has a life of its own. She’s the only first violin tomorrow, backed up by several second violins. She’s also the youngest. Somehow she just seems used to it all….

6) E is learning this. It is the cool of cool.



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.