Ten years ago, it was my last day working at Blackwell. A Monday. An odd day to have the last day, but when you’re being made redundant to be replaced by a machine…
This means it’s also ten years since I left my work colleagues definitely wanting more. I’ve always been a private person, and so, when they discovered, on my last lunch with them in the cafeteria that after seven relationship-gossip-free years that I now had a girlfriend and she had not one but two and three quarter cats, this was definitely the way to leave them.
Who didn’t have a fascination for a fossils and dinosaurs as a child? This is a delightfully traditional tale of childhood adventure. Andy and Darren are two boys who dream of making a big archeological discovery in the woods near where they live.
As it says on the backcover, this is a book that “is set in the days before the internet when children looked for adventure out of doors rather than online”. Anyone remembers the 1980s TV summer holidays programme, Why Don’t You? will know exactly what the author means by this. The downside to this admission, and to little observances throughout the book, is that what could be a beautifully timeless tale is somewhat dated. For the most part this could be a story that happens now, with mobile phones and the internet just shelved as something not needed in the adventure much like Deborah Shepherd does in her book, The Underhill Buttons, but instead Betty Salthouse has decided to set it in I would guess the 1980s. The reference to fax machines jarred for me but then again, for those growing up as children now, maybe the description would be entirely appropriate as it is a technology that has all but vannished as quickly as it arrived.
These are small quibbles though to an otherwise excellently told adventure of children discovering something big. There was a brief glimpse of something fantastical but it was a dream sequence, and there was an all too current reference to something that might have been a climatic threat. A refreshingly traditional children’s tale.
This is quite simply an outstanding anthology of poetry however you look at it. Every poem had me gripping the page and brought to tears. This is a book formed out of the friendship of two amazing people who met at a literary festival and found that they had a message to get across. What they have achieved in just one year is collecting together a set of poems that speak directly to the reader about what it’s like to care for, and be cared for, people of ‘difference’.
This is a book that should be pressed into the hands of every elected individual as to why we need more NHS and more social care. It is as the title says, the voices of the silent – those who are not always heard. Jess Hiles probably puts it the simplest, “We are the same / but I am different.”
Some of the authors included in this slim volume may only have one poem to tell; and some may never have considered that they could tell their tale in this way. This collection proves that everyone has a voice and should be heard and listened to. It is a book that I will be recommending to everyone I know.
The calendar year may start in January in the depths of winter but for most, the year begins with Spring. This is the first in Melissa Harrison’s stand-out series of anthologies based around the four seasons. I started reading it with the seasons, having started with Autumn which was outstanding. This one doesn’t quite reach that level of perfection.
Like the other volumes in the series, Spring is a miscellany of poetry, prose, and nature writing by both contemporary and past authors. The format remains the same, of keeping you to the end before revealing the author and the date that it is from – often with surprises in store when you realise that something you thought was of the now, is actually from the nineteenth century.
The biggest joy of this book, is the last item in the anthology, featuring as it does a place which exudes the very essence of Spring from somewhere that I know and love very, very well.
On Saturday I took part for the second time, as author and panellist, at the 3rd Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival. I reprised my role from last year for the talk on Writing About Difference.
This is a discussion that, just as at last year’s festival, was something very special, and for my own small part on it is something that I am very proud of being part of. One of the proudest achievments over the last year is meeting Joy Thomas, and Jo Allmond and Jess Hiles. It was because of last year’s festival and the panel discussion that we were all on together that Jo and Joy put together Silent Voices, an anthology of poems written by those who are not always heard.
This is a collection of poems written by authors, some of whom have preferred to remain anonymous who are directly affected by seen or unseen difference, or who are the carers of people with mental or physical disibilities. My only part in this project was to typeset the book for print and ebook, but I gladly gave this time in order that Joy and Jo could have the book ready to launch at this year’s festival – back where it all began a year ago.
The paperback edition is released on 1 May 2007, but you can download Silent Voices to your Kindle now.