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!