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Why Mountains Play a Role in Small Eden

The Wild Woman of Carshalton

It may be Robert Cooke’s story I tell in Small Eden, but his mother Hettie undergoes a transformation of her own. Hettie’s parents were mountaineers, who named her after the ridge route in the Scottish highlands where they first met. After her father meets his end traversing that very same route, this proves too much…
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Writers Who Walk

Creativity, Well-being and Inspiration

I’m a walker who writes. In my childhood years, as one of five children, ‘I’m a walker’ wasn’t something you needed to explain. It was a given. We even had our own chant. ‘I left (start with left foot) my wife with forty-four children and don’t you think I was (skip) right, right, right. I…
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In the Hot Seat: Chairing Triskele LitFest’s Historical Fiction Panel

Way back in September, what already feels like a lifetime ago, I chaired the historical fiction panel at Triskele LitFest. We had a lot of fun on the day. I’d like to think that was at least in part due to the preparation I put in, but it was probably down to the fantastic line-up!…
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Do Fictional Characters Have Ghosts?

St Mary’s Church in Beddington is normally locked during the week, but one Thursday lunchtime – my mother-in-law’s tenth anniversary, in fact – I found the doors open, and so stepped inside and lit a candle. But at the same time as thinking how much Maureen would have liked the building (pointing out that that…
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Haweswater: A Literary Pilgrimage

In search of a drowned village

Yesterday, en route to Penrith station for the journey home, our minicab driver asked what had brought us to Haweswater. I told her that it was Sarah Hall’s novel. In fact, I have been trying to get to Haweswater for the past three years. At Easter 2015, we made it up from Kentmere to the…
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A Visit to Sissinghurst Castle: Book Conservation in Action

You may ask why I love physical books. What could be more absorbing than trawling the bookshelves of two of the most fascinating characters of the twentieth century, Vita Sackville-West and her husband, author, diplomat and politician, Harold Nicolson? At Sissinghurst Castle, a team of expert conservationists are doing just that. This painstaking project will last…
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Need help discovering the books you don’t know you need?

Ask an independent bookseller

Yesterday, visiting Barton’s Bookshop in Leatherhead, Surrey (a place I have begun to feel very much at home), I was given a delightful little book called, ‘The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted’ by Mark Forsyth (Author of The Etymologicon. In it, Forsyth toys with the Donald Rumsfeld quote about…
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Close Encounters in Pelican Park

The working title for my novel, AN UNCHOREOGRAPHED LIFE, was Pelican Park (better known to some as St James’s Park) where many pivitol scenes take place.  Regular visitors will be aware that the pelicans often retreat to a rocky outcrop, where only the zoom lenses of those standing on the terrace of the Swiss Cottage can reach them. Today we…
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A Week in the Lake District

When you need a little perspective in your life, plant yourself in a big landscape. Preferably on top of a mountain. Last week saw a welcome return to the Lake District, which has become our home from home. Day One Matt and I arrive by our chosen modes of transport. (I have an inner ear condition that makes me feel…
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Silent Movies

My mother’s choice of birthday treat was an afternoon outing to the Musical Museum at Brentford ( to see two films starring (and when I say ‘starring’, I should really say written, directed and produced by andstarring), Buster Keaton, accompanied by a 1929 Wurlitzer which was manufactured for a private home in the USA and then spent 30…
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