Colin’s Golf Habit

Denise strode down the High Street, looked up at the blue May sky above, remembered the blonde girl twirling before the mirror in a cream silk dress, and mentally totted up the shop’s profit. Hopefully, if they did well this summer, she and Colin could afford one of those wonderful-sounding cruises that her friends kept going on. But if sales fell, she’d really have to consider opening on Wednesday afternoon. The thought of losing her free afternoon brought a slight frown to her face.

When she reached home, Colin was deftly chopping herbs. He nodded briefly as she came into the kitchen and slung her bag onto the table.

“Omelette and salad for dinner, OK, lass?” He said.

“Yes, fine. Your day OK?”

“Aye. Busy though. Four sessions with kids who’ve never been taught to brush their teeth and have got mouths full of fillings. How was today?”

“Not so bad. Sold a ball dress, from the sale rack, to one of the High school girls. I hope she’ll tell her friends about us, and maybe we’ll sell a few more. Could do with that. I really don’t want to have to open six full days.”

“Yeah. You said.”

“Well, I do need that afternoon off!  I need it to help people.  Like last week, like I told you, I needed the time to cook some meals for that couple with the new baby.”

“I know! Aren’t they the couple on Cavendish street with the Audi?”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

Colin raised his eyebrows.

“Anyway, they still needed help,” she said. “And the week before, I had to visit Mrs Peterson. She doesn’t get out much!” Denise didn’t want to mention that half the church visited Mrs Peterson. The optimistic, encouraging 80-year old was a pleasure to spend time with and to pray with. Colin wouldn’t understand. Instead, she started to lay the table as he whisked up the eggs.

As they sat down to eat, Colin said, “This evening, you hadn’t got anything planned, had you?”

“No. Just a nice quiet Saturday night in.”

“Er, well, I’ve been asked to help out with a car. Friend of a friend, er, she’s called Louise, and it sounds like it’s just the alternator needs replacing. It should only take an hour and it’s light enough this evening.”

Denise looked at him. His eyes met hers and then flicked away sideways.

“Is that OK with you?” he said.

“Yes…” she said slowly, then smiled. She was being silly. He wouldn’t have mentioned the woman’s name if there was anything to worry about. “Yes, fine. No problem. I can watch that film, ‘God’s not dead.’ It’s not your cup of tea anyway.”


Denise waved the ‘Mail on Sunday’ at him over the toast and marmalade.

“Look at this!” she exclaimed. “This woman – she gets seventy thousand in benefits! Look at the size of her telly! And she doesn’t lift a finger.  I work fifty hours a week, some weeks, for the shop and you know I’m lucky to get a quarter of that.”

Colin picked it up and read it.

“Seventy thousand pounds’ worth of benefits, it says,” he murmured. “Not actually seventy thousand.”

“Even so!  She looks foreign to me. I bet she is. Polish or Romanian. Does it say? How many kids has she got?  Five!  As bad as that family down the road. You know, the one with the single mum, with weeds and drinks cans and stuff in the front garden. I wish they’d tidy it up. It looks awful. Makes the street look such a mess.”

Colin stood up.

“I’m going,” he said.


“I’m playing golf.”

“Really. Again? Oh. I didn’t know. I hoped …   Oh, Colin, I wish you’d come with me, just once. We’ve got a visiting speaker from an African mission this morning. I’m sure you’d find it interesting.”

“Er, maybe another time. I’m promised this morning.”

“Honestly, you’re turning me into a golf widow! That’s eight, nine Sundays in a row! Just don’t start playing Saturday afternoons as well, that’s all I ask.”

Denise slammed the kitchen door and went to get her bible and sermon journal. By the time she came back down the stairs, Colin had his coat on and was heading out of the door.

“Well…bye,” he said. “Back about one.”

“Bye,” she muttered. “Hope you have a nice morning…not!” Before he took up golf six months ago, she was sure he’d been on the verge of coming to church with her. But now if she even mentioned it, he’d go really quiet, or change the subject, or make some excuse to leave the room.

When she came back, the house was still empty. She dropped her bible on the table, shrugged, and decided that she’d do a bit of gardening after lunch, so she went to get her tools ready. The lawn needed edging but the shears weren’t in the shed. Colin must have put left them in the garage – he’d said something about sharpening them. She opened the garage door, paused, dropped the keys onto the ground and stared.


Denise was peeling the potatoes for lunch when Colin came in. She whipped round and jabbed the peeler in his direction.

“Colin, you – you – sod!  Where have you been?  Really?  And don’t you dare lie to me!”

He stood, his coat half-off his shoulders, and stared at her.

“Golf, my foot! You must think I’m stupid,” she snapped.

“Denise?  What are you on about, lass?”

“Your golf clubs. You forgot to take them. They were in the garage.  You were so clever, telling me you were playing golf, but you messed up, didn’t you? You forgot to actually take your clubs!”

Colin sat down at the table. He looked down and breathed in deeply. He clasped his hands, with their long, practical, deft fingers, together. Then he looked up.

“Er…” He paused.

“Er? Is that all you can say! Come on, Colin. Out with it. You’ve been – ” she gulped and stopped. If she said the word, ‘affair’, it would become real. She shut her eyes, dropped the peeler into the sink, and sat at the table opposite Colin. “Please,” she said. “Please, tell me. It’s not that woman, Louise, is it?”

“No! Of course not!”

“Well? What is going on? Is it just extra work? They’re not making you open the surgery on Sundays as well as Saturdays, are they?”

“No, nothing like that.”


“Well… Aye, you’re right. I haven’t been playing golf. The fact is…”

He stopped. Denise stared at him. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. It must be something awful. It was an affair. She stood up.

“It is – It is, isn’t it? You – you are having an affair. With that woman, Louise…How could you?  After all these years?”

“No, I ain’t!  It isn’t that. For God’s sake, sit down, woman, and listen.”

She sat and glared at his shame-faced countenance.

“Going on then. What is it?” she said.

“I’ve, er, I’ve been going to church.”

Denise drew back. In the silence the clock’s ticking filled the room. She breathed in, out, in again. Tears filled her eyes.

“Oh. Oh, Colin. Oh, thank God! I’ve been praying for this for years.  Why didn’t you tell me?  You’ve been going to church! How long for?”

“About five, six months.”

“Colin, oh, I’m so relieved. You’re saved!” She smiled, reached across and took his hand. “We should open a bottle of champagne to celebrate.”

He shook his head. “Nay, lass. It’s not that simple. I don’t think I’m what you might called ‘saved’. Seems to me it isn’t like that.”

“What is it like? Tell me, please, Colin!”

“I’ve, er, well, you know I started playing golf Friday afternoons. With Eric. And a couple of others. One of them was a vicar. We got talking. Got on really well. He was a decent chap. Seemed to practise what he preached. Anyway, the upshot is…”

He looked directly at her.

“I’ve been going to St. Luke’s,” he said defensively.

She pushed her chair back and snatched her hand away from his.

“St. Luke’s! Not St. Luke’s? The vicar there – was it him? That you played golf with? Simon Cartwright? He’s… But he’s.. He’s all woolly, and liberal… not…”

“You were going to say ‘gay’, weren’t you?  Aye, he is, as gay as they come. He comes prancing down the aisle in his embroidered dress; camper than Butlins, he is. But he doesn’t care. He’s – you know, lass, he’s happy. He’s easy-going, honest… And I don’t know what you mean by liberal, but he certainly ain’t illiberal.”

“How could you?  When I’ve been praying for you, asking you to come with me… for years?  How could you do this and not tell me?  And with someone like that! A church like that! Easy-going?  That’s just an excuse to be – to go right off the rails, to do anything you like! There have to be – to be rules, to be standards!”

“Rules!  Mayhap you should read your bible a bit better, Denise. Mayhap you should read Matthew seven more often.”

“What do you mean? I read my bible every bloody day!  Don’t you tell me what I should be reading!”

She stood up and slammed her bible onto the table. Several bookmarks fell out. Colin stood up too.

“It doesn’t seem to sink in, does it, Denise?” he said. “You disapprove, to say the least, of gay vicars. You nearly had an apoplexy when the gay marriage bill went through. And you sit there, reading that paper, and tutting about everything and everybody.”

“I don’t!”

“You do. You rant about gay vicars, anyone gay, for that matter. And single mothers and immigrants and feminists and people from public schools. Anyone upper-class, except the royal family.  They’re all right, according to you – I never could work that one out.”

“The royal family?” Denise said in confusion.

“And people who have four-wheel drive cars in town, the unemployed, all MPs except Boris bloody Johnson ‘cos he makes you laugh, all Americans, Germans, East Europeans, in fact all foreigners except Canadians and New Zealanders for some reason. You can’t stand Channel 4, modern music, hymns written after 1875, parking wardens…”

“Colin, stop it…”

“The bloody list goes on and on. Drug-addicts, homeless people, bankers…”

He paused.

“Too many for me to remember! You criticise the lot. Dog-walkers, transvestites – you actually cringed when that man, the drag queen with a beard, what’s his name – Conchita – won the Eurovision.  Oh, mustn’t forget, anyone with a tattoo or nose stud, cyclists on pavements… I’m surprised you can bear anyone’s company!”

“That’s just not fair! I don’t criticise. I just – I just try to love the sin, hate the sinner – no, it’s the other way around. I try! I try to love the sinner, but hate the sin!”

“Well, it looks to me like you don’t make any difference ‘twixt one and t’other. You ought to practise what you preach about loving enemies and forgiving others. Listen to yourself! What you said about that single mum down the road!”

Denise shook her head. What was he on about?  How could this be happening?

“What did I say?” she said.

Colin didn’t reply. He sighed, and walked out of the room. She heard him go up the stairs, then the sounds of doors closing and opening, drawers slamming shut, footsteps in the bedroom overhead. She waited. Breathing seemed hard. She tried to pray, but she couldn’t concentrate. What was Colin talking about?  Criticising footballers? No, no, she didn’t do that.  She shook her head, like someone trying to dislodge a buzzing sound from their ear, and went back to the sink. As she picked up the potato peeler, she noticed that her nail varnish was chipped. She tutted. Maybe she should try some of that gel varnish instead. It would be expensive but it would look a bit more sophisticated and would last longer. Colin’s words, ‘you ought to practise what you preach’ suddenly echoed in her head. That didn’t make any sense. Of course she did. Mechanically, she continued to peel potatoes.  Whatever he said, they still had to have lunch. Anyway, he said he’d started going to church. That was good. That was the main thing.  If he was getting a bit of wrong, non-biblical teaching, then she could do something about that, couldn’t she? Pray, talk to him. The love of a good woman was surely worth something. She allowed herself a small, complacent smile, at the thought of Colin finally, after all these years, walking into St. Agnes with her.

The sounds overhead stopped, and she heard him come downstairs. He dropped something heavy into the hall. When he came into the kitchen he had his coat on, and he looked tired. So old, so tired. He worked so hard. She knew he liked ‘giving people back their smiles’ but honestly, that dental practice was wearing him out. She dried her hands and went over to him.

But he stepped back.

“Don’t, Denise, lass,” he said.

“What? Why?”

“I’m off.”

“You’re off? Where are you going?”

“I’m, er, look, Denise, I’m leaving.”

“I don’t understand. Leaving?” She stepped back, put a hand out to lean on the counter, then sat down and stared at him.

“Leaving. Going.”

“Going? You mean…You mean it?”

“Aye. I’m leaving.  I’ll take my keys, for now. I’ll need to come back to get the rest of my stuff. But I’ll understand if you want to change the locks.”

“What?” Denise clenched her hands, and stood up. “You can’t be.  You said you’d become a Christian!  How does that fit, leaving your wife?”

“I’m just moving out for a bit.”

“For a bit? For how long? It’s wrong!  It’s wrong! Colin, you can’t do this!”

“I guess I can.”

He picked up his keys from the hook, and did up his coat. Denise grabbed his sleeve.

“Why?  For God’s sake, why? I don’t understand!” she cried.

“It’s not going to work, is it?  You going to your church on Sunday and me going to mine. I won’t get a moment’s peace.”

“Don’t be stupid, Colin! I can cope with that! That’s just an excuse…”

“I just can’t take you and your tutting and sighing at the news and everything, any more. And, as well as that, I suppose you could say that I’ve just about had my fill of hypocrisy. Like making meals for a family that have got an Audi, who could easily afford to buy ready-meals for a month without a problem, when you sneer at the single mum down the road. Talking about forgiveness, yet moaning about muggers getting early release. Calling the unemployed lazy.”

Denise let go of his sleeve and collapsed back onto the chair. She put her head in her hands. The tears started to fall. “No, no. Please, no…” she sobbed.

“Think on it, lass,” he said, in a softer voice. “You didn’t used to be so – so harsh and annoyed with everything and everyone. Anyhap, I’ll be in touch.”

“But, but – where are you going?”

“I’ll stay in a B&B for a bit, until I can get sorted. I’ll let you know.”

He went into the hall. Denise ran after him, but he picked up his suitcase, strode out and shut the door firmly behind him.


Denise sat on the bottom step of the stairs, gulping down sobs and staring at the door. After an hour, she got up and walked slowly into the kitchen. The half-peeled potatoes and twists of brown skin still floated in the murky water in the bowl. There was no point in finishing them or cooking the fish. She gripped the worktop and tried to understand why he’d left. Because she was harsh?  But that was wrong. She was always helping people. Everyone at church knew how much she did. How she’d lent money to Susannah to set up a website for her new catering business. How she’d visited old Mr Mandeville in hospital. How she’d set up the toddler group. If that wasn’t love in action, what was?

She poured the bowl of potatoes through a colander and took it into the garden to put on the compost heap. As she passed the garage she remembered finding his golf clubs. Colin had lied to her. She flung a potato at the shed, hissing “swine!” as it hit the wood. She flung another, then another. Swine, lying, faithless swine! How dare he call her a hypocrite! She wasn’t! God knew what she was. She was a Christian! Just because she saw the evil in the world and named it. She was trying to be light to the world – to be a good person. Cyclists who rode on the pavements were being lawless and dangerous. What was wrong with pointing that out?

“I don’t hate cyclists!” she yelled, flinging another potato. “I don’t! Or dog-walkers or tranvestites or – or anyone! I don’t! I don’t!” She threw a handful of peelings after the potato, and then the colander, then crouched down on the grass. “I don’t… I don’t,” she whispered. “I’m a good Christian…” She stood up. Her face hardened. “It’s all a lie. Just an excuse to leave me,” she muttered. “He’s wrong, not me. He’s got it wrong!”


Two days later, Colin texted her an address. She hadn’t heard anything from him. She’d cooked meals, washed up, opened the shop, closed the shop, tidied, read, prayed, flicked through her bible then put it aside. When her phone beeped that evening, and she saw it was from him, her first thought was that he was sorry and he was coming back. But it was a terse message with an address and something about he’ll come round next weekend to get the rest of his clothes and books. The coward hadn’t even dared to phone her and talk to her directly.

Denise rushed into the hall, grabbed her coat and keys, and dashed out. Fifteen minutes later she stood on the step below the door of a scruffy-looking terrace house on the other side of town. She breathed in deeply and knocked. The door was opened by a dark-haired, slightly overweight woman, with red cheeks and clear blue eyes. She had an eyebrow ring and a toddler balanced on her hip, and Denise could see a tattoo snaking up the arm holding around the toddler.

“Yes?” she said, leaning casually against the wall and looking down at Denise.

Denise stared at her.

“What’d you want?” the woman said.

“Who are you?” Denise exclaimed.

“None of your business.”

Colin appeared behind the woman. He was wearing an apron and holding a wooden spoon. “Who is it, Louise?” he said.

“What!” Denise shrieked. “Louise?”

“Oh. Er. Denise. Er, hi,” Colin said.

“Denise?  This your wife?” Louise said. “Oh blimey! I said this was a bad idea…”

“Bad idea!” exclaimed Denise. “I’ll give you bad idea. You slut – you little slut. You whore…”

“Hey, just you can it!” Louise snapped back.

“Now then, steady on, lass,” said Colin. “Louise, you take Maisie inside. I’ll deal with this.”

“Fine, no problemo, you deal with her,” Louise said. “I’m not staying here to be insulted. You sort her out. Come on, Maisie, let’s go finish that drawing.”

“Colin – you swine, you scumbag, you lying, cheating, low-life…” Denise yelled, as Louise flounced off down the hall. “All that rigmarole about leaving me because of church and you’re holed up with some cheap tart!”

“Stop it! It ain’t what you think! I ain’t having an affair with Louise. Of course not! I know her, through Simon, through his church. She’s got a room and needed a lodger, so I arranged to stay here for a few months, until we’ve sorted things out.”

“Oh, yeah, sure! That’s not what it looks like, you liar.” Denise pointed at his apron. “Rent and cooking?”

“Oh, you mean this? Well, I’m helping her out with the cooking. Shepherd’s pie.”

“You’re what? I don’t believe this! For God’s sake, Colin, you stand there, waving a spoon at me and talking about cooking as if it’s all normal. Come off it! You’ve left me for her! Haven’t you?”

“No! I’m just staying here to help her out with money. She’s a bit short, and the rent helps.”

“Well, I need help too. I think I get priority. I’m your wife, remember!”

Colin took a step closer, leaned forward and gripped onto her wrist.

“You don’t need help. Well, not what I can give you,” he said, in a low, serious voice. “Now, you listen, Denise. You ought to recognise Louise. She’s one of those single mums you go on about. Three kids, partner walked out on her. And she’s met you before.”

“What? Where?”

“At your Mums and Toddler’s group. Louise came once. Do you remember?”

Denise shook her head.

“Pity. No-one spoke to her. She said they all stared at her like she was dirt. She was eight months pregnant with Maisie, Danny was a handful, and Rhees was in a strop.”

“Oh, I see you know all their names now,” Denise sneered.

“Aye, I do!  Anyhap, you listen! She was there at your toddler group. Her kids kept running around, and she couldn’t do owt, being as how she was eight months gone. Someone – probably you! – told her off because Danny nicked another kid’s toy.  Then Rhees was sick. She said she wanted to curl up and die because of the way everyone stared down their posh noses at her. She left as quick as she could. You were there. One kind word – you could have done that. But you didn’t. Not even a single word, let alone an offer of help. Too busy cooking bloody beef lasagne for that rich couple, when Louise was living on budget spaghetti hoops trying to ensure her kids were fed. It wouldn’t have cost you owt to have helped her instead.”

“But… I don’t remember her. But… I would have been busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Oh, running it, putting the drinks out, making coffee, talking to the mums.”

“Aye! Talking to everyone except the one who really needed it.”

“That’s not fair! She should have disciplined her kids a bit more! She could have come back the next week!”

Colin shook his head.

“Too late, anyhap. Well, she’s getting some help now. She went to the ‘messy church’ at St. Lukes, and got on really well there. Even got Maisie christened. She thinks Simon’s – well, cool, I guess, and the people there really friendly and helpful.”

The sound of beeping drifted towards the door, along with a distinct smell of burning onions.

“Right, I’d better go. Think on it all, Denise, lass.”

Louise sauntered back into the hall. She moved close to Colin, and for a moment rested her hand on his shoulder.

“You coming?” she said to him.

Colin nodded, stepped back, muttered “I’ve got to go” to Denise, turned and walked quickly away. Louise looked down at Denise. There was a definite smirk on her face. Then she closed the door, leaving Denise outside in the darkness, in the place with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

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Being in Someone’s Head

Does anyone else, as a writer, find themselves reading with a critical eye, noticing different things now that they are a writer themselves? Such as the skilful way the author blends description and action, the hook in the first paragraph, the key plot swivel at almost exactly 50% through?

Having finished ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I then started on ‘The Maltese Falcon’. You might say I have eclectic reading tastes.  In both, I found myself noticing the ‘Point of View’ (POV). In P & P the book starts with a narrator’s POV but most of it is in Elizabeth’s POV or the narrators.  But there are tiny moments where we hear another POV, for a sentence or more, e.g. Darcy’s, Miss Bingley’s. For example, “He (Darcy) began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.”

Writers are told not to change POV within the same scene/paragraph/chapter. Ten years ago I would not have noticed. Now I do. It is reassuring that the sublime Miss Austen breaks the rules. Maybe rules don’t matter that much.

Then in the ‘Maltese Falcon’ there is no POV.  None at all. You never get inside anyone’s head. All thoughts, emotions and desires are conveyed entirely by speech, appearance and actions. For example: “Spade sighed, rose from the bed, and went to the telephone-box beside his bathroom door. He pressed the button that released the street-door-lock. He muttered, ‘Damn her,’ and stood scowling at the black telephone-box, breathing irregularly while a dull flush grew in his cheeks.”

It is a screen play, it is a movie, it is genius and also oddly disconcerting.  It gives the book a clinical, almost menacing, feel. I am used to understanding what is going on in at least one’s character’s head.  To not know…it increases the suspense massively.

Has anyone else written, or come across, a successful novel/story that has either no POV at all, or continual POV slips between heads within the same scene/paragraph?

maltese falcon



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Flawed Fiction by Good People

I’m still on a search for good Christian fiction. Any suggestions welcome.

I have decided that I will only post reviews of books that I can recommend. This is a result of a recent quandary. People I knew or had met – friends, acquaintances; well-meaning, passionate, intelligent people; Christians – had written and published books. I read them and they were … not good. So, should I review them and write the truth, lie about them or just ignore them?

It was frustrating. In one case I’d been asked to comment on the book, prior to publication. My comments were mostly ignored, afaics (I’m not sulking…)

Two books both opened with compelling characters in well-written and highly dramatic situations. A great start. Then the characters disappeared for the rest of the story – and in one they actually died!  I felt this was a big disappointment for the reader. On an Arvon course I was told ‘let your protagonist be the first voice that your reader hears.’ If you think about the good books you know, I bet a pound to a penny that the first voice is that of a key character, usually the main character, sometimes a narrator. I can think of very few exceptions.  (The first Harry Potter book, perhaps?)

Another book was a thriller/romance/mystery, but the climax, when the bad guy was revealed and then arrested, happened ‘off stage’, and was not actually described. What a wasted opportunity for a nail-biting, show-stopping scene full of danger and drama and emotion.

Anyway, this blog is just to say I learnt a bit more about writing from these flawed books, and that I promise I will never recommend a book just because I have met the author.




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Plotting with the Writers’ Group

Guy is working out how to goad a rival actor into committing murder. Melanie is scheming to save the stars. Ariadne is deciding what to do after a human leg plummets to the ground outside the living room window. And Oliver can’t decide if finding out that his father has died in prison is enough to push Durston into violence.

From the above, you may think that we are all loopy, but in fact we have had a fun evening talking about plotting our fiction.

We looked at several things that would help. One is the ‘mythic cycle’: Cage, Escape, Quest, Dragon, Return. This fits well with fantasy. The first Harry Potter book would be a perfect example.

This is my favoured one at the moment:  the Eight-point Plot Structure:-

  1. Stasis:
  2. Trigger: the stasis and trigger could be before the story actually starts
  3. Quest: this part is often ‘reactive’ and is usually the longest part of the story
  4. Surprise: something happens that raises the stakes or changes everything
  5. Decision: protagonist takes control and stops being reactive
  6. Climax: all to fight for!
  7. Reversal: change of fortune, usually going the protagonist’s way
  8. Resolution: climax/reversal/resolution could all be one scene. Could be dramatic/tragic/funny

We did some exercises applying these structures to our own work. And we also looked at some notes from a PDF I’ve got called a ‘traditional_plot_storyboard _ 20 chapters.pdf’ which talks about character arc and some questions to ask before working out the plot.  I’m not sure where I got this document from, but I think it came from Anyway, it’s very helpful.

And just to prove that I practise what I preach:  this is a screen-shot of Scrivenor and my notes for a shortish story. I have already recommended Scrivenor.

eight point story structure small

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The Evenness of Things by Deborah Fiddimore

A poignant and perfect story about dealing with grief and guilt, and our need for beauty, ‘The Evenness of Things’ is written with evocative detail. It is a novella, rather than a novel, about a vicar’s wife, Daisy, who buys a house without her husband knowing – what a wonderful concept! The underlying tension between them is hinted at with restraint and skill, and the sense of sadness and yearning is perfectly conveyed. Parts of the story are set in Lindisfarne and Alnwick:  Deborah is such such a good writer that I want to visit those places again.

Sadly, the book is only available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle. Whatever your opinion of e-books and Amazon, this book is worth reading, and I’m glad I bought it. The story dwells in me and makes me think, like another book, ‘The Enchanted April’, did. Is it selfish to look for beauty, when beauty can heal?  The answer is yes – as St. Paul says, ‘whatever is lovely….think about such things’.

As an aspiring writer myself, I recognise (with a certain amount of envy…) the skill with which Deborah describes places, creates her characters, drops in hints about past tragedy, and conveys emotion with restraint. I enjoyed the descriptions of Daisy’s dismay when she has finally bought the house: ‘everywhere the sense of papered-over cracks, disguised for tourists, emerging with knowing smiles’. There were some neat twists in the story and a satisfying ending.  Ironically, Daisy’s selfish and secret act brings redemption…perhaps not the obvious Christian message, on the surface? But in fact it is a hopeful story about how one has to face sadness and guilt, and let life even things out. A story as beautiful as the Dower House itself.

the evenness of things





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The Audience of One

Would you continue to write if you were never able to get your novels and stories published?  Would you write if you decided to self-publish and only sold a few hundred? A score?  Ten? Would you write if only a few family and friends read the stories, but they genuinely enjoyed them? What if only one person read them, but that one person was profoundly moved or encouraged by them, and remembered them – and re-read them – throughout their life?

I have a drawing on the wall of my office, bought at an art exhibition in Shropshire about ten years ago. It is a precise, unusual pen and ink sketch of some rocks and a wall and a few houses at Harland Quay in Devon. Hubby doesn’t understand why I like it, but I can see that the artist is, like me, fascinated by the intricacies of weathered layers of rock, and in love with the purity of simple black and white drawings. The picture makes me want to go there, to run my hands over the folded, smoothed rocks, and climb over their ridges and furrows.

So I am the only person I know who appreciates that picture. It has brought me pleasure and reminded me of the complex beauties of creation.

It struck me that the artist has no idea who bought this painting, where it is, what happened to it, or even that it has survived and not ended up in the back of a charity shop somewhere, or – worse – in landfill.  He does not know that I enjoy it. I too, have no idea who has read the three or four of my stories and poems that have made it into anthologies or magazines. They may have sunk without trace, or it may be that one, two or perhaps a few dozen people, have enjoyed them and will remember them or re-visit them.

So perhaps we should keep writing for the sake of that one person for whom one of our stories may have a significant, helpful impact. Or perhaps we should write, as we should worship and pray, for the ‘audience of One’. Perhaps God appreciates my efforts, enjoys reading them, and wants to know how the story will end?  What a strange thought that is!

hartland quay by geoffrey sutcliffe

The picture is Hartland Quay, by Geoffrey Sutcliffe. Let me know if you like it too.

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A good experience thanks to the Writers’ Group

We have some very talented people in Rugby, and last night I, with hubby Phil, had the wonderful experience of attending the world premiere of ‘Pride and Credulous’ written by a member of Rugby Writers (and one of the founder members of the ‘Rugby Association of Fictioneers), Nick Marsh.

Nick’s good. He won a prize for ‘A Frank Exchange’ – a short play about the betrayal of Ann Frank. His dialogue is spot on, his humour risqué. The phrase he scribbled most often on my fiction was ‘SDT’ – Show, Don’t Tell!

Pride and Credulous is a clever, witty and rude short play based on Jane Austen’s novel. I won’t waste space telling you about it, just to say if you get a chance to hear it (there will be a reading in Rugby Theatre later this year, I gather), go!

The play was put on in a village hall by the local drama group. Phil and I laughed a lot.  A lot of the time we were also laughing at the audience. The cast had bowdlerised it, but not enough for some of the poker-backs in the audience, who did not approve, it seemed. I had heard that although a lot of the rude jokes were removed, many of the more obscure and extremely rude jokes were left in because the cast didn’t get them!

And, because I have enjoyed some writing recently, here is my D&D backstory and I hope you enjoy it too:-

Herina pushed the embroidered drapes aside and strode into her and her mother’s rooms in the Elven hall of Dellriven.  The Elven lord, Felrund, was standing by the arched window that looked over the waterfall. Her mother stood close to him.  Herina dropped the heavy game bag onto the floor. Blood from the rabbits and brace of pheasant seeped into a sticky pool on the polished cream marble.

Felrund turned, saw her, and tutted.

“By the stars, Illyeda, your daughter looks more like that rogue, her father, every day,” he said, brushing a fleck of dust from his moss-green velvet robe. “A pity… such a graceless, clumsy, gawky girl. You must be mortified every time she lurches into the hall.”

Illyeda pushed her silvery hair behind her pointed ears, smoothed her white samite skirts, and stared with aloof, grey eyes at Herina. Come on, say something, Herina thought. Well, if you won’t, I will.

“I suppose you think I should be a pale beanpole like your son, always strumming that gdzarhsik lute and wailing about the moon!” she hissed.

“What did you say?” Felrund said.  “That sounded like Dwarfish.”

Herina shrugged. “So I know a few Dwarfish swearwords?  At least they have more guts than you lot.”

Felrund stared at her, turned to Illeyda, kissed her hand theatrically, then swept from the room, sneering loftily down at Herina as he passed.

Illeyda stepped towards her daughter. “Herina,” she said. “Must you bring your dead animals here?  Must you wear such clothes?” She gestured towards Herina’s mud-splattered leg bindings and tattered jerkin. “Must you spend so much time in the woods, and villages, and hills with those – those savages?”

“You’d rather I stayed here, prancing about the terraces and pavilions in ten-foot long silk skirts and with my hair dolled up in bright red plaits?  Leaning gracefully over the balconies, sucking up to Felrund’s wussy son, pretending to be dignified, pretending I can stand the endless lute music and singing to the stars like they matter? Krizikdesh, give me strength!”

“Yes!  You should accept your heritage and your destiny as an elf, Herina!”

“Half- elf, half- human, remember. Anyway, sod that.  All that poncing nobly around, all that chanting and woo-woo magic. No, I can’t stand another evening drifting around the hall trying to fake some interest in Felrund and his oh-look-at-us-we’re-so-beautiful cronies and the eternal boring songs about ancient history.”

She strode into her room and threw open the cupboards.  As she pulled out clothes, knives, a cloak, her bodhran drum, and shoved them into a pack, Illyeda stood and watched.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“What does it look like? I’m going. I think I’ll head off to see if I can find my father. You should approve, mother. Aren’t elves keen on quests?”

Illyeda shrugged. “Quests?  I think finding Andur will be more than a quest. I suppose I should try to persuade you to stay, but truly, you are not suited here. You do not fit. I will send you away with my blessings and wishes for your protection.”

“What, no ancient Elvish amulet or powerful charm? Not even a farewell chant? Mother, I’m surprised at you.”

“No. But I will give you this.” She undid her necklace and gave it to Herina. It was a simple gold chain, with no pendant.

“What use will that be?  Come on, I was expected a magic ring at least. Or something, I don’t know, something father gave you.”

“You were the only thing that your father gave me,” Illyeda said with dignity, wiping a tear from her eye.

“Well, I bet I was a big disappointment to you. Right, I’m off.” Herina hoisted the pack onto her back, picked up her bows, quivers and arrows, and threw the cloak around her shoulders. “You can keep the rabbits and I’m sure Felrund will be only too happy to comfort you after I’ve gone. Any last words, any wise advice, any hints as to where my father might be?”

“Try the Torrendor homelands. Andur will probably, knowing him, be raiding settlements with other bandits, now that the empire is weakening.”

“Sounds fun. Maybe I’ll join him. Bye.”

“Farewell, my daughter, and may the bright stars shine on you, may the moon light your path, may the rains…”

Herina didn’t bother to stay to hear the rest.

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