Month: August 2018

Looking Back & Moving Forward

I am currently ensconced in the noble endeavour of proofing the final copy for the forthcoming trilogy of PorterGirl novels, Old College Diaries. I’m not going to lie, it is not a task I relished and it is certainly sending my eyes peculiar, but it is not quite so much the onerous mission I thought it might be. For one thing, it’s a good opportunity to pick up on the many irritating typos missed by my hopeless editor the first time around, but what I wasn’t expecting was that I’m actually quite enjoying it. I realised that I hadn’t read First Lady of the Keys since it was released; I’ve dipped in and out to check references from the later novels but I haven’t cast a reader’s eye over it for quite some time. And reading through all three books one after the other is certainly an interest. 

 

As many of you know, large sections of the early parts of First Lady were written for this blog when I was still a Deputy Head Porter. When I first typed those initial, seemingly innocuous words – Late September, just before the start of Michaelmas Term… I could never have imagined the tumultuous  and unexpected paths along which they would eventually lead. Reading now the charming naivety of both Deputy Head Porter the character and my own writing stirs something of a nostalgic wonder in my now slightly more cynical soul. Large parts of the book – and, indeed, my experiences at the real Old College – had slipped from my memory and from a personal point of view, it has been quite the joy to revisit them.

Following our heroine through The Vanishing Lord and, most recently, Sinister Dexter, I can really see how she has developed and grown into her role and made it very much her own. The writing, too, has evolved with her and the differences between the first and third books are quite stark, to my eyes. In many ways, First Lady was the easiest to write. It was my first novel and I had no real idea about what writing a proper book entailed. I tapped away merrily at the keyboard until I was satisfied that my story was told and that was pretty much that. It certainly isn’t my strongest work, but that beautiful, unfettered freedom of writing when you have no idea what you are doing is evident throughout the book. It has a definite charm of unhindered ignorance. Much like DHP herself.

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I won’t bore you with the processes that followed for the next two books, suffice to say I tackled the steep learning curve as ferociously as possible and, I think, improved with practice. I’m proud of my work and to see it all brought together in one volume is obviously pleasing, but also strangely prophetic. Old College Diaries sees the story of Old College told through the eyes of Deputy Head Porter, a literary device that will be abandoned for the forthcoming instalments. Fear not, though, PorterGirl purists – I am writing the fourth novel as we speak and I can assure you that none of DHP’s whimsical musings are lost at all. We now have the added benefit of other characters’ whimsical musings as well. But anyway. In this way at least, it is the end of an era for PorterGirl, but one that heralds a bold new approach and will, I hope, raise the bar for the books that follow.

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And this is prophetic because I myself am facing significant changes in both my personal and professional life which somehow mirror the purpose of Old College Diaries. A chance to move on, to raise the bar, to begin again with the benefit of experience, new-found enthusiasm and a few lessons under my belt. Final details are not entirely decided but final decisions most certainly are. All I need to do is make it happen. And making things happen is something at which I have become rather adept over recent years, so I am certain there will be updates of interest before very long.

There is a rather odd, Joycean, sense of things that everything has come full circle, only to begin again. Change is rarely predictable, but my optimism for the future is encouraged by an overwhelming feeling that this is very much a beginning, rather than ‘The End’.

I’ll keep you posted.

Lucy x

Kevin Morris – The Writer’s Pen & Other Poems

My thanks to Lucy for kindly agreeing to host me on her excellent blog.
“The Writer’s Pen and Other Poems”is a collection of 44 poems encompassing the passing of the years, nature, man’s place in the world and politics. Ever since I can remember I’ve been in love with that fickle mistress, Mother Nature. She has long delighted me with her gentle rains, which bring out the scent of the good earth, and oft times the falling leaves remind me of my own mortality. In the below poem, “Wood in the Rain”, I express what arose within my heart as I walked in the woods, close to my home as the rain gently fell:
“My hair is barely wet
At all,
And yet
The rain did fall
As I stood
In yonder wood.
The yammer
Of a hammer
Reached my ear,
While the birds free
Sang to me
As I touched the flowers
That know not hours”.
We humans are so obsessed with worldly things. As Wordsworth puts it, “getting and spending we lay waste our powers”. On my walk, the birds and the flowers reminded me that nature knows not of such matters. The flowers bloom and die with no concept of time (or, indeed of anything else) and we have, I believe, much to learn from them.
A number of other poems in the collection touch on politics/current affairs. For instance in “Kipling May Regret” my enjoyment of curry and wine in an Indian restaurant leads me to ponder on how the late Rudyard Kipling would regard today’s multiracial society (which I welcome):
“Kipling may regret,
Yet
The sun continues to shine
And there is curry
And wine,
While in the street
Multiracial feet
Hurry along
Beating out a more or less harmonious song”.
Where to buy:
“The Writer’s Pen and Other Poems” will be published on 3 September, but is available for pre-order now. (Anyone pre-ordering will not be charged until the book is delivered on 3 September 2018).
To preorder “The Writer’s Pen” please visit
or
On 9 September I was interviewed by Ariadne Sawyer of Vancouver Co-op Radio’s The World Poetry Reading Series regarding “The Writer’s Pen”. During that interview I read several of the poems which appear in my collection. You can listen to my interview here,
Author’s links:
Author’s website – https://newauthoronline.com
Author’s Twitter – https://twitter.com/drewdog2060_

Cricket & Gin

Sounds good, right? An afternoon partaking in that most British of summer pursuits (a bit of cricket), accompanied by a seemingly endless supply of expertly fashioned G&Ts. And so it was… for the most part. But as I type this with shaking hands, sleep-deprived and barely able to remember how to spell my middle name (not even joking – I just had to check my driving license) I’m not sure I can – or should – recommend it. Let me explain.

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A lovely gin & tonic

Sunday saw the last game of the season for my beloved Cambridge cricket team, St Radegunds. Tradition dictates that this is a jaunty family affair where all the team gathers with spouses, lovers, children and random strangers from the pub at Jesus College to play what is known as the ‘Vera’s Match’. A Vera is a double G&T – a shortened form of the rhyming slang ‘Vera Lynn’. Little did I know the rampant importance that gin would play throughout the day. But anyway.

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Jesus College, Cambridge. (Spot the tiny fielder!)

Having met in the Champion Of The Thames on King Street at midday, the team was in high spirits (quite literally) by the time the game proper kicked off at two. We lined up along the boundary to be picked out one by one to join either the official St Radegunds side, or the once-a-season-only temporary side of the magnificent Vera Lynn Appreciation Society. I was selected to play for the latter. With each team boasting a rich variety of players of all ages (I think the youngest was five) and abilities, the focus was on fun rather than a final victory either way, although I’m pretty sure someone was keeping score for at least some of the match.

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Tiddly cricketers

If details sound vague, that’s because I can barely remember anything. Everyone over the legal drinking age was required to imbibe pints of ale throughout the match. Play would be halted in order that glasses could be refilled. Not taking a pint out onto the field (be you batting, fielding, bowling or – hilariously – umpiring) meant you ‘weren’t a proper cricketer’. This seemed fairly reasonable to start with and I tried to pace myself, but as soon as someone noticed dwindling levels of beer an instruction to refill at once was issued. At fifteen overs when one would usually break for water and squash, double G&Ts were served. Liberally. I’d had about four gins before I even got my pads on.

It was quite wonderful swaying gently at mid-off in the afternoon sunshine, watching good-natured sportsmanship occurring in the crease and occasionally trying to catch a ball. Running became a bit of a struggle after a while, but no one was expecting too much so the odd wobble out towards the boundary – pint in hand – was perfectly achievable. Staggeringly, I even managed to take a wicket on the last ball of my bowling over, which is pretty good going even when I’m not three sheets to the wind.

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Just-taken-a-wicket selfie

After that, things get a bit hazy. I know I batted at number four and seemed to be out there for ages, taking some rather good balls from a teeny tiny bowler and generally running up and down a bit. A random chap ran me out, but I really didn’t mind as having a bit of a sit down was by now quite high up on my list of priorities. Now unencumbered by fielding duties, the Vera Lynn Appreciation Society had little do but wait to be called to the crease – and drink, of course.

So.

Much.

Drinking.

And eating, too, but it didn’t matter how many sausage rolls I shoved into my little face, they were not enough to soak up the oceans of gin and ale now coursing through my veins, probably giving me a blood group that was now 70% proof. At one point we tried to cajole a group of non-English speaking tourists to join the game. They went away quite swiftly.

 

Still drinking at the pavillion

I’m not sure who won, or even if anyone was still keeping score. It was probably a draw, but the result was irrelevant as it became imperative that everyone got back to the pub as quickly as possible, because we had run out of booze. Obviously, the one thing we all really needed at this point was lots more booze. Now things get really sketchy. There was a lot of singing, I know that. I distinctly remember leading the throng in a rousing rendition of Invisible Touch by Genesis. There were other, St Radegunds-specific, songs that were sung at people and instructed them to drink gin very quickly indeed. These were very good songs.

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Back at the pub

At some point, the pub closed. I don’t know when this was, but it was definitely morning. The chap who ran me out clearly still felt bad about the matter and invited my good self and a couple of others back to his place for some wine. He turned out to be a splendid fellow, actually, and we had a lovely chat about things I can’t remember before we spilled out onto the streets of Cambridge at about 6am. 

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No idea what this is, but it was on my phone

And so you find me now, trying to get on with my day (failing miserably) while watching Inspector Morse and wondering if I will ever see straight again. The moral of this story, if there is one, is probably not to drink with cricketers. Or ever drink anything ever again.

Until next season, obviously.