Monday, 29 February 2016


Long ago, when I was a young child, a voice from the radio would occasionally declare in deep and solemn tones: “lift up your hearts!” I subsequently discovered that this phrase was used in Church, but in those days I remember clutching my chest and trying to stand up very straight. I was convinced that in so doing I could – literally – lift up my heart.

Today the radio informed me that it was Leap Year Day and I should make the most of this ‘extra day’ which only comes around once every four years! My immediate thought was that I wanted to do something cheerful and fulfilling which might improve the way 2016 has gone so far. My spirits were somewhat dampened as I turned to the necessary task of telephoning the garage where our car must limp to tomorrow after a three week wait for a ‘senior technician’ to plug it into the Nissan computer. Such unavoidable calls are depressing, particularly when they promise to phone back and don’t.

So we decided to go out and stretch our legs. The sun was almost out. The road closure half-way down the hill was actually being worked on. And the view from the viaduct over Tavistock was stunning.

It wasn’t really a phenomenal way to celebrate this ‘extra day’, but it lifted our hearts a little and brought a smile. I failed to write anything other than these few sentences, but I hope today has brought a few smiles and laughter to my readers. Roll on Spring!

Monday, 15 February 2016


There is sometimes an infuriating moment of clarity at the point of falling asleep which can drive a writer mad! Thoughts are at their purest and ideas can begin to unfold. Start to focus and your muscles tighten in appreciation, sleep falls away and insomnia beckons. Ignore the seduction and you risk forgetting it all. One solution I have tried is jotting down a few lines, but this involves turning on a torch and gathering one’s equipment. Whilst good for creativity the next day, this is not ideal for getting back to sleep.

You don’t have to be a writer for this to happen; anyone can be affected by ‘last minute’ thoughts before sleeping. I am currently trying out a method of putting them to one side by treating them as a ‘practice run’. I have found that I don’t actually forget these ideas. They continue to reside there, somewhere, in my mind – which is much better at storage than I realise. When next I sit down to write, perhaps taking inspiration from something as beautiful as the jar pictured, as I relax so the ideas flood back. 

The blue jar, which is in fact very old and once contained a poisonous substance, was a gift from M who rather apologetically thrust it at me on Saturday. It was wrapped in bubble-wrap inside a plastic bag, and although he made the excuse of a ‘Valentine present’, it is something I admired recently in the Tavistock Indoor Market. Discussing it with Richard, the stall-holder, we exchanged ideas on how colours can be inspiring. This particular blue is stunning and my eyes kept being drawn back to it.

You may find it odd therefore, that the colour of the jar has led to the expansion of an idea in which colour is absent. In this extract from my current work, a little discussion takes place in another dimension of the universe between two people trapped in a grey place:

...“First, though, I need to explain about the light. Do you know about the colours which humans can’t see? The importance of these other colours? …Now, at home we have light and dark, don’t we? And our colour spectrum kind of goes from light to dark.”
“Well, that’s very simplistic,” Helen almost laughed.
“OK, but what is unknown to us is that there is a third thing which is neither light nor dark. I call it ‘lark’ for lack of any other word.” He felt himself smile once more. “This kind of half-light which we’re in here is lark...”

The concept of a third element is not easy to convey, but much of my writing expresses such things. More importantly, it occurs to me that this grey place, neither light nor dark, can also exist in human minds as something we might experience when suffering from depression. Many years ago I endured a kind of depression in which even colours looked different and the most homely and comforting of things surrounding me appeared hostile. Luckily this was a temporary state, but there are some for whom it has become permanent.

Colour should not be taken for granted. I count it a luxury which enriches all I see around me. Having known and worked with blind people I am thankful I have the ability to perceive it. Some of the extraordinary and beautiful photographs which crowd the internet call out to be looked at, enjoyed and shared. So I hope you will enjoy my picture of the blue jar, and that it will add clarity and colour to your day!