Stone Soup

“A rich man’s soup – and all from a few stones. It seemed like magic!”

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

Besides the Teeny Tiny Woman, the other childhood story my parents frequently read to us was Stone Soup.

It’s a folktale of far reaching import…

In the French and Hungarian stories, a soldier who has been through many trials is returning home. On his way he passes a village. He is hungry, but has no food and carries an empty pot. The villagers, wary of soldiers and tired of war are unwilling to feed him. But their curiosity is piqued when he makes a fire, fills his pot with water, drops a stone into the pot and begins to heat up the water. Continue reading Stone Soup

Profiling a villain

“I hadn’t been driving long when I felt what I thought was a bug fluttering around my left leg and ankle. I tried to brush it away, but it persisted. With my eyes on the road , I leaned down again to shoo it away, only to feel something much larger than an insect against my hand. Looking down, I saw the head and about 10 to 15 centimetres, of a snake. We had somehow picked up a passenger.”

‘The Biyamati Stowaway’ by Gordon Parratt, from ‘101 Kruger Tales’

Kruger National Park BaboonA shriek came from a nearby cottage. Then we heard the crash of crockery shattering on a stone floor. A man shouted and swore in German.

Within seconds a large male baboon bounded onto the lawn in front of our cottage. He looked back a few times towards the last shouts of the angry German, then settled down on the grass. Continue reading Profiling a villain

Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

“Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

Our first view of Saint Petersburg (pronounced Sankt Pyterborrg or just Pyterborrg by Russians) was from the window of the Meteor (hydrofoil vessel) from Peterhof. A cheerful, high pitched woman’s voice shrieked and crackled over the loudspeaker in Russian – no doubt telling us the mysteries and wonders of Saint Petersburg. However, the Meteor was packed full of Chinese tourists and we three auspicious caucasians squished like sardines in among them.

Nobody had any idea what she was saying. Continue reading Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

Russia Part 1: Pavlovsk, Pushkin and Peterhof

“If so, better let him be named after his father. His father was Akaky, so let the son also be Akaky. Thus it was that Akaky Akakievich came about. As the child was being baptised, he cried and made such a face as if he anticipated that he would be a titular councillor.”

The Overcoat by Nicholai Gogol

A South African in RussiaIt seems that Putin and Zuma have formed an unholy alliance. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I hear your groans. I see your rolled eyes.

But there is a silver lining.

As of 31st March 2017, South Africans have visa-free travel to Russia and Belorussia.  If you itch to travel the world and experience different cultures, now is your chance. Go! Go to Mother Russia! Continue reading Russia Part 1: Pavlovsk, Pushkin and Peterhof

Lacking the creative juices

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The great artist in the sky is poised, pencil in hand, en train de dessiner.

He is drawing me.

Imagine the cartoon me. I’m sketchy and one-dimensional at present. I sit on a park bench along the Thames in the shade of a great plane tree. Millions of bottoms before me have sat on this very bench. Seagulls fly and cry high above me. Ducks drift past on the tide. I sit. I stare. Continue reading Lacking the creative juices

Leaf by Niggle

“The bicycle was rolling along over a marvellous turf. It was green and close; and yet he could see every blade distinctly. He seemed to remember having seen or dreamed of that sweep of grass somewhere or other. The curves of the land were familiar somehow. Yes: the ground was becoming level, as it should, and now, of course, it was beginning to rise again. A great green shadow came between him and the sun. Niggle looked up, and fell off his bicycle. Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished.”

Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R.Tolkien

J.R.R. TOLKEINA funny little tale. Just 43 pages.

At the beginning of the Second World War J.R.R.Tolkien was called into active service. He’d been writing one book for some years. Now, he despaired of ever fully realising his work, The Lord of the Rings.

His characters and storyline were so grand. Worm-holes of plots and sub-plots had developed in his imagination, creatures and landscapes so ambitious, so intricate, he wondered if he could ever really put it all down on paper – or when even? Continue reading Leaf by Niggle

Your first draft has permission to suck!

Stephen king remembers adding another rejection slip to the nail under the rafter above his tiny desk in his loft room, “Then I sat on my bed and listened to Fats sing ‘I’m Ready’. I felt pretty good, actually. When you’re still too young to shave, optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Q: Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl in the toilet?
A: Because the ‘P’ is silent.

your first draft has permission to suck

I thought this was funny!

Where am I going with this?

The lead character in Death in Paradise (series 5:3), DI Humphrey Goodman, is a stereotypical bumbling, disheveled Englishman solving murder cases on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie.

He is lonely.

Encouragé by his islander colleagues (it’s a French island), he creates an online dating profile. That evening, having solved the crime, the murderer safely behind bars (cue the Agatha Christie formula), he is getting a lesson from his colleagues on how to talk to women. Continue reading Your first draft has permission to suck!

When worlds collide: our fertility story without a happy ending … yet!

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Have you ever imagined telling a personal story or making a confession?

our fertility storyIn the small hours of the night, when the seeds of the story begin to germinate, somehow the telling sounds better in your imagination. Such was the pattern of my thoughts a few nights ago, when I lay choked up with emotion and puffy-eyed, and Hubby suggested that I finally tell this story.

Deep disappointment is both difficult to carry alone and equally heavy to tell. Yes, we have told our immediate families and a couple of close friends. They have supported us in the best way they know how – sometimes helpful, at other times not so helpful, but always heartfelt. Continue reading When worlds collide: our fertility story without a happy ending … yet!

Little did she know

“If he could have died – like Nelson – in the hour of victory! Would it not have been better for him – happier for me? Often I thought so. For to fade slowly away; to lose his strength and fire and intelligence; to outlive his character, and no longer be himself! No, that could not be happiness!”

Jock of the Bushveld by Percy Fitzpatrick

jock of the bush veld filmI’ve finally finished reading Jock of the Bushveld. It was sometimes gripping, sometimes sad, and oftentimes hard going with antiquated, somewhat ungrammatical phrasing akin to the writing of it’s time – published in 1907. And an unnecessary over use of exclamation marks. It was a story I felt I knew well from having seen the film as a child and from Johnny Clegg’s ‘Great Heart’ music video and also in legend. Jock, in South African culture, is a legend of a dog and the stories of his conquests in the bushveld are told over and over again – how many dogs have since been named Jock? Continue reading Little did she know

January writer’s block: stalking me like a monster

“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

never give upI knew this day would come. It’s been lying in wait, holding on for just a Tuesday like this one to pounce – writers block! One writer described it as the bogeyman waiting in the mirror. I’m looking into the mirror now, and all I see is little old me, defenceless. January is one of those months – regenerative, scary and disappointing all wrapped into 31 cold, short days. It holds so much promise, but who can carry all that pressure without occasionally stumbling at the awesome weight of the load? Continue reading January writer’s block: stalking me like a monster