The Opposite of Kin, by Jo Bell

The Opposite of Kin, by Jo Bell

What could be better for this week’s Not The Guardian Family Section than some thoughts on kith, those ‘who are known, taken collectively; one’s friends, fellow-countrymen or neighbours’? It’s the title of Jo Bell’s upcoming poetry collection, for a start, and I’m exceedingly happy that two of the major kith areas of my life – those of writing and boating – intersect with those of Jo. I’ll be reporting back from the launch of KITH, which will be happening later this month in the marvellously named Much Wenlock, but for now, here is Jo with a look at what kith means to her.     Experience has shown, dear reader, that commitment is not my thing. I am what Nancy Mitford would call a Bolter. I have jumped...

Getting On With It, by Robbie Burton

Getting On With It, by Robbie Burton

For today’s guest post in my occasional series, Not The Guardian Family Section, I’m delighted to welcome one of my favourite poets. I love pretty much everything Robbie Burton writes. And says. She has an unerring sense of both humour and poignancy, and I’m happy to share this with you as we wait for her pamphlet to come out. (I’ve heard the draft. It’s ace.)     A bit of a crack-pot, my late husband. Thirty-three years we lived in our last house, thirty-three years without carpet, wallpaper or paint on the hall, landing and stairs. The house was Victorian and its landing was vast. The hall floor had lost its beautiful tiles and was chipboard. My husband was a surveyor and occasionally visited remarkable houses. One belonged to a...

Living with the Tidy Gene

Living with the Tidy Gene

First off, I’ll make it clear that I’m not the one with the tidy gene. In fact, the very idea would have any friend of mine rolling around on my floor, at risk of being impaled by Lego corners. No, the reason I’m thinking about tidiness is because my son, now just coming up to 14, has discovered the delights of it. And this, for me, is a mixed blessing. He’s been muttering for a couple of days about it being time to have a tidy up, and today, when we got back from swimming, he got stuck in. Much of the assorted crap littering the (floor, chairs, worktop, insert noun of choice) was actually his. He went around finding homes for it, and put the rest on my bed, to be dealt with a some unspecified point in the future. The sitting room is now...

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews My rating: 3 of 5 stars I found All My Puny Sorrows a difficult one to rate. On Amazon, I’ve gone for 4 stars, to give credit to the exquisite writing. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where every page was a masterpiece. On the other hand, I found the pace a bit…glacial in its slowness. Don’t let that put you off giving All My Puny Sorrows a try. Most reviews are glowing, which is why I feel OK about going for a 3 star rating here. It would have been a three and a half, if I’d had the option. View all my reviews Share:TweetEmailMoreShare on...

Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

This week, it’s all been about covers and copy edits, which have both been exciting, if in different ways. They mark a real staging point on the publication journey: it’s not about a pile of manuscript pages any more. Before long, now, I’ll have a proper book… Talking about the edits led to one of my favourite threads ever on Facebook, with writer friends sharing the overused words they’d had to cut out pre-publication. We all had our own: my characters are always ‘looking’, and spend a lot of time pushing themselves up on to their elbows. (nb. see how I now know that it’s ‘on to’ and not ‘onto’…). Everyone’s pet words were different: some that came up were ‘only’ and...

Listening to War and Peace on New Year’s Day

Listening to War and Peace on New Year’s Day

I woke up this New Year’s Day morning and didn’t really feel like getting up. The night before had been a late one, natch, and the outside world was both cold and wet. My phone was out of power, so Facebook and Twitter were out. I had a book handy, but that was too much effort. So I put on the radio and reached for the headphones. I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping dogs on the bed, after all. Or the sleeping Graeme, come to that. But the radio was strange. None of the normal programmes were on. The radio world had become War and Peace. Funny how these things work out. A bare three weeks ago, I read War and Peace for the first time since I was a teenager. (*Disclaimer: I didn’t actually read all of it in the run up to Christmas. I caught...