Monthly Archives: November 2016

Book Reviews

I love reading. If I could only chose one hobby it would be reading books: I can’t imagine a world without them.

I’ll read almost anything I can lay my hands on: fiction, non-fiction, journalism and poetry. My wife even jokes that I’ll read the label on a shampoo bottle when I’m in the shower. I love reading as an activity for it’s own sake, but all the advice I’ve ever seen about being a writer stresses the importance of being a reader too.  So I read for inspiration as well as relaxation, and in this blog I want to share some of my favourite books with you.

This Friday, I’m publishing my first book review on this blog: it’s about one of my all-time favourite books Elidor, by Alan Garner. It’s a children’s book I first encountered almost fifty years ago, and it still means a lot to me now.

I’ve had some good comments on last week’s photo-essay on Aix en Provence, so I’m pleased that you liked the pictures and that the words didn’t get in the way.

Next week it’s story time again. I’ll be publishing a short story called Home Time. 

Meanwhile enjoy reading about Elidor. I’d love to hear what you think of the review and, if you’ve read Elidor, what you think of that too.



Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence (or simply Aix) is a city of around 143,000 people in south east France, 19 miles north of Marseilles. Although it is a city, Aix has a relaxed and intimate feel. Here’s a selection of my favourite photographs I took on a trip there in June this year.

The City

A busy ring road encircles the old centre of Aix. Within the centre, the mainly eighteenth and nineteenth century streets make a pleasant place to wander round in.

Place des Cardeurs

The Place des Cardeurs in Aix en Provence. This busy square is filled with bars, cafe’s and restaurants, but still manages to retain a grace and poise which is characteristic of the city.

Food and Drink

The chance to sample fine food and drink is one of the major attractions of Aix. The French region of Provence has a distinctive cuisine and there are plenty of chances to buy and eat fresh local produce.  This is a refreshing change from the global brands that appear everywhere,  although they happily live side by side in this city.

Aix en Provence Boulangerie

There’s very little to beat the taste of bread baked in a boulangerie like this one.

Market in Aix

Like most French towns and cities, Aix en Provence has a vibrant and busy market. If you love food, shopping in a French market is a must.

It Pays to Look Around

Aix has many interesting sights to offer, often in surprising juxtaposition to each other.   It’s a good exercise to look upwards as there is always something intriguing to see.

Piety and Commerce

Nearly every street corner in Aix en Provence has a religious statue, often beautifully carved and painted. Sometimes they form a strange partnership with adverts for all sorts of goods.

Artistic Inspiration

The area of Provence has always had strong artistic connections and it’s not surprising to understand why. Not only is the scenery breathtaking, but the quality of the light gives everything great clarity, colour and vibrancy.  Many famous artists have worked in the area. Including  Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, and Matisse. It’s difficult not to be inspired by staying there.

Outside the Atelier de Cezanne

The Atelier de Cezanne is where the French post-modernist artist Paul Cezanne worked during the last few years of his life. After Cezanne’s death the upstairs rooms of the Atelier remained untouched, leaving us a vivid picture of how the artist worked.

Inside the Atelier De Cezanne.

Inside the Atelier De Cezanne. This spacious room, brightly lit with floor to ceiling windows, is where Cezanne worked during the last few years of his life. The room is full of his artists materials, personal belongings and props that appeared in his paintings.

Mont Sainte-Victoire

Mont Sainte-Victoire. This 101 m high limestone peak was a favourite subject of Paul Cezanne.

Photographic Essays

This Friday, 25th November, I’m publishing the first of my photographic essays: on the city of Aix en Provence in southern France.

Although I’ve been writing stories for many years, photography is a fairly recent hobby. I’ve always taken holiday ‘snaps’, but two years ago I decided to take photography more seriously, and bought my first proper DSLR camera.

I’m interested in using photographs to tell stories. When I’m out with my camera I take hundreds of photographs and then look for the one’s that hang together well as a sequence. I’ll photograph almost anything, but I’m  most interested in landscapes, places and nature.

I have to admit though I’m not a great technical photographer: I like to keep it simple, using one camera and one lens, and keeping post-processing to a minimum.  I find this a more spontaneous way of working, even if it does have its limits.

This week’s essay on Aix en Provence contains pictures from a holiday my wife and I took this June. I think the photographs I’ve chosen give a flavour of the city. I’ve tried not to make the essay read like a travelogue, but I’d be interested to know what you think.

Thank you for the interest you showed in my short story Camel which I published last week. I’ve had several comments on the blog, on social media and in person and they’ve all been encouraging.

One of the things I’ve been asked is whether there will be a Camel’s Revenge story. I hadn’t planned to do one, but I think it would be fun to write a sequel, maybe narrated from Carly/Carmen’s point of view.

I hope you’re enjoying reading this blog as much as I’m enjoying the challenge of writing it. Next week I’ll be publishing my first book review of Alan Garner’s Elidor. If you like the blog, it would be great if you’d share it with other people by using the share and email buttons at the bottom of this post.

Take care,



Most people in here call me Camel ‘cos they say I smell like one, right. That’s ‘cos when I was in the Young Offenders’ Institution they beat me up every time I tried to get a shower, so I stopped botherin’. That don’t happen no more because the screws say no one will go near me after what I done. They say that they’ve never had a grave robber on remand before, even though I tell ‘em I never done no grave robbin’. I’m only in here ‘cos I tried to do Carly a favour.

Continue reading

First Editorial

Welcome to my first editorial!  Each Wednesday I’ll post an editorial introducing the week’s story, photoessay or book review, in advance of it’s publication on Friday.  I’ll also update you on what I’m working on, future posts, and anything else I think you might be interested in. 

This Friday I’ll be posting a short story, Camel.

I originally wrote Camel in 2010 as an assignment for a creative writing course.  For quite a while I’d wanted to write a story with an unreliable narrator: where readers saw events from the narrator’s point of view, while at the same time seeing through them to a different version of the truth.  It took me ages to find the right character, but after listening to a radio interview of two young offenders talking about their crimes, Camel was born.  I’ll admit that I ended up with a petty crook with very low moral standards, but I think his naivety and lack of self-awareness make him quite a sympathetic character. From the opening paragraph of the story Camel is caught up in events which he doesn’t understand and has very little control over.  However, by his own standards he acts with integrity.

For me the key to creating Camel’s  character  was getting his ‘voice’ right, so as you read the story you’ll notice his English isn’t perfect and he swears a lot.  Please accept my apologies in advance for his bad language, but he wouldn’t have seemed real without it.

I hope you enjoy Camel.  I’d be very happy to hear your views, so please post comments on the blog or send me a message by using the contact form.

Next week I’ll be posting a photoessay on Aix en Provence and the painter Cezanne.

Take care and see you later!