Month: April 2014

The Shock of the Fall – Review

The Shock of the FallThe Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book made me Google ‘Is Shock of the Fall’ based on a true story, because I believed wholly in the protagonist Matthew. Nathan Filer, as a mental health nurse, clearly has a powerfully empathic understanding of the behaviours of the mind. This is a touching reveal into the inner world of a boy, boy-man, man living in a type of mental and, consequently, physical and social isolation while coming to terms with a tragic event and feelings of loss and shame that accompany it.

But it is an enjoyable, entertaining and surprisingly light read given the subject. He manages to bring a kind of Adrian Mole humour to the story while teaching us from inside what it feels like to be Matthew. I can relate to Matthew’s thought processes throughout the story and there is a clear logic behind his version of reality. Matthew makes insightful observations on human relationships and communications, both with him and between each other, that make me smile or chuckle and think: yes, I know that, I know that person, that Steve, that awkwardness. Behind the beautiful simplicity of the words Matthew uses and thinks in, there is a non-judgemental and perceptive wisdom that comes from living on the outside looking in.

The Shock of the Fall is a great book. It’s funny, thought-provoking, touching and warm. Read it.


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Akenfield Book Review

Akenfield: Portrait of an English VillageAkenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful insight into village life. It is full of prose.  The transcribed interviews of the villagers have a quality of simplicity and a stillness that seems to come from a kind of acceptance of life stemming from a connection with the land and its natural cycles.

Blythe’s introductory descriptions of each villager, before the transcribed interviews, are an excellent lesson in character development. He has a way of describing people’s physicality and character that is intricate, visceral and contains a kind of profound and distant love for the people of his Suffolk homeland.

I highly recommend Akenfield as a refreshing antidote to the over-done, urban-centric view and a tender and thoughtful representation of rural life.

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Edie’s poem

Big Ben SW

My 7 year old niece came to visit.  We took her to the Natural History Museum.  Edie met her forefather, Neanderthal Jones and she shook the three-fingered hand of Tyrannosaurus Rex and she danced the do-si-do with Allosaurus and she swam alongside a sei whale, who combed her hair with his fine baleen.

After the museum, Edie saw lots of people close together, waving blue, red and yellow flags in the air and holding banners of words and shouting.  They were saying something that they cared about a lot to do with a man called Maduro.  He is the boss of a country five thousand miles away where angels fall.

Edie went on the train under the ground and then she saw a house on the river where the bosses of this country talk and make things up and decide things.  Then at quarter past four, the little Bens rang and she curtsied to the tower and yawned into my gloved hand.

At home, while I cleaned the kitchen, she asked me for a piece of lined paper.  I gave her my notepad and she sat at my desk.

I opened my notepad today and this is what I found.


If I was with you

the things that we could do

Like go and see Big Ben

If I was just with you then


Edie, age 7


Edie’s poem is the musical beauty of simplicity.  It is worth a million of my words.

Yours truly



Image – Stephen Wiltshire sourced here:

Grumpaldine and the Sensational Salamandridaes



I am taking a risk and bearing my Grumpaldine to you because it is the truth, because I would be a liar if I pretended that every morning my heart sings at the sight of squirrels chasing each other around the trunk of a white, blossoming pear tree.  Some mornings I cannot see.  Today I am in a stinking, rotten, self-hating, self-pitying, loathsome little mood and it is probably unwise to make it known. It isn’t interesting, it is not positive, it is not inspiring, it is not well-written or eloquent.  It is what it is. And what it is, is a pile of self-indulgent, maudlin, shoulder-drooping, face-sagging, furrowed-browed shit.  Ah! Just uh! Ur! My skin is crawling with it and it’s all tangled in with the staphylococcus and it wants to be scraped away with papaya body scrub.  Skin wants to start at the beginning, before the toxins and the years, the very beginning.

Most days I wake up in the morning and run downstairs followed by an arthritic yowling cat. I sling him over my shoulder while the kettle boils and he purrs and rubs his whiskers on the metal frame of my spectacles. I deliver tea to him upstairs and I push back the bedroom curtains shedding sunlight on sleep-squinted eyes and I fling open the window and fresh, crisp spring air rushes in. Mr Blackbird chases his wife and bright, green parakeets squabble in the silver birch while wood pigeons plunder the hawthorn. I marvel at magnificent, cream-white chimneys and a giant Ferris wheel and square Victoria Tower jutting out of Parliament on the hazy, city skyline before I notice honeysuckle’s tender night growth winding around the trellis and reaching up to my chilly fingers from the balcony below.

Not this week though, not today. My inner bitch is having a field day today. I couldn’t get out of bed. He brought me tea. I scowled at azure skies and lurid, green leaves and I would not let life in. I need to get my kung fu pants on and fight her off with a jab to the eyes, back fist in the nose, right-side kick and a left-hook, fisted groin punch. She’s holding me down with an elbow in my windpipe and I cannot move and I gasp.


‘Grumpaldine, I…can’t…breathe.’

‘Oh how interesting, you crazy, deluded loser. No one, do you hear me, no-one gives a flying fig what you have to say, a big fat failure like you.  Who do you think are?  No one will read your pathetic, insignificant, tedious and turgid drivel.  No-one, not one.  You losing failure, failing loser face!!!’ she spits and a globule escapes her mouth and trembles on her lip that quivers with hatred.

‘Please Grumps…can’t…breathe.’


Eventually she gets bored and I pull myself up and plod to the shower.  Grum-pals follows me everywhere I go.  She nags at me all day long and she’s so terribly mean.  She says I’m a drain on the planets resources, a useless individual who never grew up, who never had the mettle to succeed or the physical ability to breed.  I am angry. She’s right.  The bitch is right.  I have not done enough. I have spent so long worrying and procrastinating that I simply haven’t done anything.  I am ashamed, shame on me.

I had a German teacher in school. Everyone called her Frau Cow. Hans und Lieselotte mit Lumpi are projected onto the classroom wall above shadowy, children’s heads of all manner, shape and size. The class chants like mesmerised zombies ‘Lumpi ist mein Hund.’ Frau Cow shouts across a dusty beam of light that ends on drawn, black-out curtains: ‘Liesl!’; it was my German name, ‘Du bist die faulste Mädchen in der klasse.’ I learned this sentence well. Lazy; I was the laziest girl in the class, a bone idle, good for nothing, space-wasting, slovenly little trollop and I never pulled my socks up, nor did I go outside and turn over the new leaves. No, I did not.




If I die tomorrow, what would they carve into the light grey granite headstone, not that I’ve thought about it, but would it say: Born 1973, Died Aged 40, Here lay the remains of a woman who paid the bills, for which she will probably not be remembered. This part is not self-pity.  It is a reality. It doesn’t matter I suppose because when I’m dead, I’m gone. But given that I’m likely, in purely statistical terms, to go on for at least another forty years which is basically living my life over again but with an older body and a more decrepit brain, I really don’t want the next forty to be pretty much the same as the last. I want to create meaning where my body refuses to create life.

Writing can’t tell me what all the blood was for but it is a soothing tonic and I can vent my spleen and drape it around my shoulders like faux ermine and I can make things. I can make stories. And that is all I want to do, to communicate. But I may be a tad unhinged, I may be living in cloud flipping cuckoo land and I am often certifiably…lost.

I might as well go on Britain’s Got Talent with my invisible, ribbon twirling blind newt family the Sensational Salamandridaes.  They really are very good you know. If only you could see them.





Image 1 – The cat

Image 2 – Lumpi und Hans,

Image 3 – Texas Blind Salamander, Tony Northrup,




Daffodils, William Wordsworth, 7th April 1770 to 23rd April 1850

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.





Image 1 and 2 – Narcissus, daffodil, Peter’s Leek or Easter Bell on my kitchen windowsill

A lovely film and reading of Daffodils –

Daffodils, Wordsworth –