Friday, 26 March 2010


Halleluya - the Ouse Bridge is open after more than four long months. My cup runneth over. My journey to the gallery has reduced to a third of the diversion round the lake overnight.
Life suddenly gets a lot better.
My plans to be the first to dance over it were thwarted when it opened ahead of schedule last night. Trotters World of Animals beat me to it. Well done Trotters.


My book, Hercules and the farmer's Wife,is now out in paperback. It can be found on Amazon and in Waterstones (3 for 2 offer) as well as independent bookshops.The hard back has sold well and this is my first paperback so it is exciting. It is a collection of stories giving a private view into the secret world behind the green baize door of an art gallery.There's the story of L S Lowry's fish and chip shop, my search for a transvestite postman, the man who was irresistible to women, a brain surgeon called Hercules, the mystery of the purple house, a cat called Fedden and much more.
I met the original Paperback Writer, Royston Ellis, in India some years ago. A Liverpudlian and friend of the Beatles, he was then living in Sri Lanka as a tax exile and researching a book on the Indian Railways. We spent several happy evenings over a curry and Kingfisher.
I don't think my paperback will give me the same Non-Dom option so I'm not planning on leaving the country - well, not permanently.
The first draft of the sequel is now ready to go apart from a visit to Chicago to fill in the final missing piece of the jigsaw. This is a mystery trip. I have no idea what I might uncover. It promises to be like a Sarah Paretsky detective novel at the moment. I'll keep you posted - if I live to write another blog!

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Hurrah! This is the best day so far since the floods last November. The barriers are down and the bridges in Cockermouth are open to traffic. The Main Street is still full of builders' vans but they have made a huge attempt to tidy up. Traffic is at last moving normally. Some of our unique businesses are back in their premises, up and running again. The ironmongers, real barber, second hand bookshop, Lily and Co just to mention a few as well as all those in temporary locations. In fact, if you don't look too closely you can almost pretend things are back to normal.
The disaster fund organised by The Community Foundation is now closed. The money had been distributed and used to good effect.
WE NOW NEED YOU! Our hotels, shops, pubs, restaurants, holiday rentals and attractions are ready to welcome you with open arms. We have had the worst winter ever recorded and we've survived. There are lambs, snowdrops and a hint of yellow daffodils which are understandably late this year. The fells and lakes are as inviting as ever. Those of us who survived the floods now need people to keep us afloat.
Wordsworth House (NT) has re-opened and we are encouraging people to walk the Main Street between our two beautiful old houses and see the progress that is being made. Wordsworth House where Dorothy and William Wordsworth spent most of their childhood was completed in 1745 and Castlegate House was built in 1739 as the Dower House to the Castle.
We are still quite a few bridges down though. I am hoping that the Ouse Bridge which comes between me and the gallery will be open by Easter. Divers have been working hard on the underwater damage.
We have a lovely exhibition opening this weekend. Marie Scott has produced an astonishing body of work full of life and colour.(see Marie will be in the gallery this Saturday. She is originally from Orkney but now lives near Edinburgh. You can come in and talk to her about the work. We are open Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays now which includes Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday. 10.30 - 5.00.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The joy of reading

On Friday I felt just as I did as a child on Christmas Eve - full of excitement and anticipation. Ten days of fun and surprises was about to start. A thesaurus of writers was about to take Keswick by storm at the Literary Festival at Theatre by the Lake. Undeterred by the sudden appearance of road works and traffic lights in the town they are all turning up at this annual event. With the first signs of spring after the worst winter anyone can remember, Keswick is being dug up - again. Essential repairs to the Greta Bridge damaged by flood along with extra flood defences are understandable but to decide simultaneously to re-do the pavements in the Main Street with non-essential ornamental sets with the work spanning Easter and Bank Holidays is lunatic. We still have 12 bridges down and our roads are splattered with potholes the size of bomb craters but pretty pavements have taken priority.
We are nevertheless still smiling bemusedly. We are a tolerant lot up here.
Literary Festivals are springing up everywhere these days but this one is special. This is its 9th year and we have the GLC as our chairmen (Greatest living Cumbrian!) Lord Bragg of Wigton.
He spoke this morning about the South Bank Show and its demise - another mad decision by beaurocrats. He described some of the interviews he had done in some detail; Terrence Rattigan in NYC with his asthmatic dog on his lap, Harold Pinter giving terse answers amid long silences like his plays and Pavarotti and his parents in the square of his home town in Italy when his father stood up and sang.
This in contrast to Fay Weldon yesterday talking about her latest novel. Someone recently described LitFests as 'A fun fair for the middle classes' and I'm inclined to agree. I like fun fairs though.
i seem to have picked up the art sessions to chair so have been madly reading the 'set' books for weeks. Tomorrow is an old friend Christopher Andreae talking about Winifred Nicholson then Francis Spalding on her new book about John and Myfanwy Piper.
I'm just putting my talk together for Friday on Hercules and the Farmer's Wife which gives a private view behind the scenes of an art gallery.
I spoke last year about the illustrated letters Percy Kelly sent to his stepdaughter when she was sent away to school after she'd run away from home after her mother went to live with Percy. The shock to all of them came when they realised he was transvestite and began striding the streets of St Davids in strange frocks! Not easy for three teenagers - or their mother. Kim is now in Australia and her younger brother in LA.
At the end of the talk I asked for questions and a young woman stood up and declared herself to be the other stepdaughter whom I'd never met. My eye ran along the row in the semi darkness to see her father, step mother and several friends. Quite a surprise. It all ended well and they enjoyed the talk but this time I will maybe begin by asking anyone related to anyone I might be referring to to declare themselves at the beginning!
You never know who's out there!