Archive | July 2016

Walk and talk

Yesterday Charlotte and I spent the entire morning writing letters to people who live in Felpham and are anxious about what is going to happen to Blake’s Cottage. It was a long chore, but a necessary one. This morning we felt we’d earned a bit of a break. We left the cottage to fend for itself for a day and went out for a ‘walk and talk’ along the Felpham promenade. It was as you can see, just the right sort of day for it.

Perhaps I should explain that ‘walk and talk’ is my way of sorting out some of the knots that snarl themselves up in most of my manuscripts while the work is in progress. My old darling and I were experts at it, my new darling and I are rapidly becoming experts. We set off along a lovely, quiet prom prom prom, with no brass bands going tiddly-om-pom-pom. 

We walked for about a mile and the first knot was unscrambled within the first 100 yards. My 15 year old, feisty heroine has a putative boyfriend who admires her but will rapidly quarrel with her. The quarrel had to make sense from the POV of his character and hers. 

The sun shone, our walk continued and we turned our attention to her relationship with her father. I had set it up to be difficult from the opening chapter, when she dyes her long, blonde hair black and goes Goth to annoy him. But there was lots to be sorted out here too as we walked, talked and unscrambled. The sun shone on us all the way, the Felpham seafront sat contentedly in the sea breeze and by the time we decided we had earned ourselves a short rest, we’d walked about half a mile. Oh we writers have a terrible life of it.


On our return half mile with Butlin’s white tents glimmering in the sunshine ahead of us and the prom full of brisk dog walkers, we rejigged the chapters we’d disturbed by our unravelling efforts and worked up a considerable thirst and a healthy appetite, both of which had to be slaked. Like I said. We writers live a terrible life.

We said goodbye to the beach and the Felpham beach huts feeling very well pleased with ourselves. Back to Blake tomorrow, I haven’t forgotten it.


This entry was posted on July 28, 2016. 2 Comments

A 21st Century fairy story

Once upon a time, at the beginning at the 21st Century there was a powerful and secretive man. Let us call him Mr Malum. As this is a fairy story you will probably ask if he’s a good fairy or a bad fairy. Well let us consider it. If you read the description of himself that he published in a business journal, you would think he was the best of good fairies, for he comes across as the epitomy of philanthropic human kindness, a man devoted to persuading the very rich to give money to charities. However, if you study his company reports, you will see quite another creature behind the mask. The job he actually does is to advise the mega rich on how to avoid paying income tax in any of the countries where they trade, and to put possible new business opportunities their way whenever he finds them. In short he’s a man with an eye to the main chance.

Three years ago an interesting property came onto the market. It had once been the home of one of our most famous poets but that wasn’t what interested our Mr Malum. What interested him was a) that it stood in a plot of land that was ripe for development and b) that the small literary society that was struggling to get the money together to buy it had a shortfall of nearly £400,000.

Mr Malum picked up his magic wand and contacted one of his most wealthy clients who was looking to enter into the world of property development. Between them they thought up an almost foolproof plan. The client, whom we shall call Mr Moneybags, would hand the necessary £400,000 over to the charity (such a sum was chicken feed to him) and Mr Malum would start the next stage of the procedure.

First he set up a private trust company naming himself as managing director. Then he contacted the chairman of the literary society whom we will call Mr Gullible and told him that he had a donor ready to help him and that the whole process of buying the property would be easier if it were done by a small charitable trust rather than by the society he chaired, because their activities were under scrutiny by several unpaid but very well meaning trustees. Mr Gullible was warned that the donor wished to remain anonymous and that nothing should be done to disturb his anonymity. The new trust was duly set up with three members, it was the easiest thing in the world as it was already up and running and directed by Mr Malum who simply stood down as director and handed over to the new three man team. The property was brought, there was rejoicing in the village where it stood and a happy ending seemed to have been reached. But that is not the way of fairy stories.

Little did we know.

For a start, the property was in bad repair and the three man trust didn’t have sufficient money to repair it immediately, which was a little difficult for them because they were beginning to come under pressure from a small, local group which had been raising money towards the sale price. It was led by a passionate, young woman who wanted the property to be open for artists, musicians and poets and rather fancied herself as a patron of the arts. Let us call her Ms Patrona. After a little while, she and her friends were beginning to be something of a nuisance to the three man team and who did they turn to for assistance? Yes you’ve guessed it. Mr Malum.

Mr Malum being the magical and powerful figure he is, with an ability to pull any number of strings simultaneously, got in touch with the local council. His advice to them was suave and sound. Ms Patrona wanted to be a patron of the arts. Very well then, rent her a property in the nearby town and give her so much work to do running it that she wouldn’t have time to worry about anything else. Simple. But of course as Mr Malum was careful to point out such generosity would come with conditions and in her case the condition would be that she would not do anything public in opposition to Mr Gullible and his three man team. The deed was done and her silence was ensured. At that point, surprise, surprise, the three man team broke the news to the general public that part of the property was going to be pulled down and a beautiful new, state of the art, half a million pound building erected on the site. Well, well, well.

Time for the good fairy I think. And yes there is one. It is a small, insignificant, white plant that glows in the dark. Mr Malum noticed it on one occasion when he was inspecting the garden and told the gardener to get rid of it. The gardener didn’t obey him for he knew the value of plants and especially of this one. It is called Veritas.


This entry was posted on July 22, 2016. 5 Comments

What’s happening to Blake’s cottage part 3

This blog will have to be brief of necessity. I now know a great deal more about what is likely to happen to Blake’s cottage and its garden but I cannot say anything about it until I’m quite sure of my facts.

I held the meeting in the Memorial Hall in Felpham on Saturday and was impressed by the 20 people who turned up. They were thoughtful, knowledgeable and good tempered. We passed round what little news we had. One lady told us that all three parts of the cottage were Grade II listed another said that any repairs proposed for an old and listed building had to be passed through planning, as she knew because she lived in the oldest building in the village. As that was the case it was agreed that between us we would watch Blake’s cottage and tell one another when the planning permission form appears on the wall. So far no planning applications of any kind have been put up on the Arun District Council website, as those who’ve been watching it knew, although the planning officer told me that the new building had been ‘under discussion’.

One man took exception, rightly, to having the 1950s part of the cottage described as an ‘eye-sore’ in the handout from the Blake Cottage Trust that was featured in the local press, others who also knew the cottage well agreed with him and were opposed to the thought that it might be pulled down to make way for this luxurious half a million pound building.

But at the end of the meeting we simply agreed that we would wait and see what happens next and this is what I have told the two local reporters who have contacted me since.

When I know and can say more, I will.

Children, dogs & the elderly

How kind of the authorities to warn us that children, dogs and the elderly should not be left in cars during very hot weather. I don’t admit to being elderly – after all what’s 85? – no don’t tell me – But I’m glad nobody’s going to leave me in a car to roast to death on a hot day, although I think it just about possible that I might manage to open the door and get out before I suffocated as these two very obviously would.

All of which has made me think about our rather odd attitudes to people who’ve passed retirement age but not necessarily their sell by date and have reached the splendidly anarchical age of happy eccentricity. I have always admired Jenny Joseph’s aim for old age and yes, I know I’ve quoted a lot of poetry to you on this blog, but this one is a stunner.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!
Jenny Joseph

And can you imagine telling either of these feisty ladies what they should and shouldn’t do?

We might be old – if you can get us to admit it – but we can also be feisty, eccentric, individual and unpredictable just as we were in our teens and twenties and all through our lives. And damn it we feel young.





This entry was posted on July 20, 2016. 7 Comments

What is happening to Blake’s Cottage Part 2

I have spent the last week walking through the streets of Felpham with an umbrella in one hand and a plastic wallet full of posters like this one in the other, asking shopkeepers and people in all the pubs and the two cafes on the front if they would put it up for display in their windows. I’ve had the most extraordinary reception. They’ve all, without exception, taken the poster and displayed it saying ‘they’re not really going to do this are they?’ or ‘they can’t do this.’ Many people were quite cross because they hadn’t been told anything about the plans for the cottage until they read about it in the local paper.

The headline had made them think that half a million pounds was available to repair the cottage, which as pretty well everyone in Felpham now knows, is desperately in need of it. A local photographer has been asked by the three man team of the Blake Cottage Trust to take pictures of the cottage inside and out and they were on display when the Blake Cottage Trust opened the cottage and served tea there on June the 11th. They told a sorry story.

The cottage was bought by the Blake Cottage Trust on 21st September 2015 after being on the market since 2013 and it was seriously in need of repair then, but as those of us in the village who have been watching it and know, nothing at all has been done in the way of repairs. On Thursday June 16th, the Bognor Observer reported that the Blake’s Cottage Trust ‘hoped to have permission to carry out urgent repair work to the roof within days.’ On Saturday, it will be a month since those words were written. Umm! 

This meeting bids to be a very interesting occasion. If you are a Felpham resident I do hope you too will come along and let me hear what you think about all this.

See you there. Saturday 16th July at 7pm at the Felpham Memorial Hall.

More in my next.



Writing about Blake

Our amazing William Blake was never recognised as a genius when he was alive, which has always seemed the saddest thing to me because he had a towering talent, or to be more accurate, several towering talents. He was at least 250 years ahead of his time. We haven’t caught up with a lot of his ideas even now. I am as you can see, a great admirer so it troubles me to see plays and read novels which take appalling liberties with the facts of his life. Let me give you a few ghastly examples.

One novelist, told by her editor that she had to ‘beef up’ the story, decided to give Blake’s wife Kate a lover and make him a french soldier! What? Any reading of any standard work about the two of them would reveal that they were a devoted and loving couple.

But if the novelists are dire – with a splendid exception of Peter Ackroyd whose work on Blake is superb – the latest crop of dramatists are worse, particularly when they’re dealing with his three year stay in Felpham. I’ve seen a group of local girls dancing in the Fox Inn – I beg your pardon!? – and the soldiers who were billeted in the village playing cricket!! Another young man has decided to write a play about Blake’s death which is inaccurate from start to finish and ends on such a ludicrous note, I could not believe what I was hearing. William Hayley, the man who encouraged Blake to come to Felpham and work for him as an engraver, rushes on stage while Blake is dying to yell at Kate that she must call a doctor because ‘he needs a blood transfusion’. In 1827!??? 1827 was 7 years after William Hayley died so the poor man would have had a job to be present at the event. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

But then Blake understood how different we all are and how different our understanding of things. “The tree which moves some to tears of joy” he said “Is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”

But now, just when I was giving up hope of meeting anyone who knew what they were doing when writing about Blake, a young man called Matt Wilmshurst found me on social media and he is, I kid you not, superb. He is planning to make a film of Blake’s three year stay in Felpham and he not only knows his subject inside out but is a careful, meticulous artist who checks all his facts and wants to get as close to the truth as he possibly can. He came to visit me on Monday to talk Blake, bringing me flowers, and we talked for hours. I enjoyed every second of them and mean to help him in anyway I can. Truth is now more necessary to us all then ever and Blake knew a lot about truth – and lies.

“A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent” he said and:

“Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed.”


This entry was posted on July 7, 2016. 1 Comment