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The Perfect Holiday

Posted by Simon on 19th, August 2017 at 17:56:38

I've just enjoyed my perfect holiday. 

Laying on a beach and doing nothing has never appealed. My brain refuses to switch off.

For me, ideal breaks involve the loves of my life in a beautiful location, and so... 


The Swanwick Writers' Summer School is just ideal. This is the delightful old house, with writers enjoying the evening sun. 

Everyone there comes together for the love of a shared passion - writing. 

Oh, and there's more than a bit of fun, too - 


Which obviously you need after a hard day's writing. 

I also get to indulge myself in my love of teaching. Thanks to all who came on my journalism and characterisation courses.


I had a great time and much of that was down to the writers, playing along with my daft ways of teaching. 

Now that's my kind of holiday. One that lifts the heart and mind both. 

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Close to the Action

Posted by Simon on 4th, August 2017 at 17:50:35

I did a travel back in time, mid life crisis, step outside of my comfort zone thing this week - 

I took my basic motorbike training test. 


Aside from the fact the tutors thought it would be a hilarious idea to give me a little pink scooter, it all went well and I passed. 

Even more surprisingly - without damaging (1) myself, (2) the scooter, and (3) any other road users.

But it reminded me how important it is for writers to get as close to the action as possible.

What really struck me was how sensuous an experience it was. 

In a car, you're insulated from the world. But on a bike - 

Wow, the trembling, then growling of the throttle. The shifting, beating, then caressing breeze on your face, as changeable as a temperamental lover.

The smell of the engine. The feel of every bump and camber on the road. The sounds of the trees rustling to wave you past. 

Only by really feeling something can you truly describe it. And I certainly felt it. 

I used to ride a Vespa when I was a young man and have long hankered after getting another one. 

So here we go. If not born to be wild, and certainly not on a pink scooter, I'm looking forward to taking to the road on two wheels again. 

Because riding a motorbike was the most thrilling, and simply all-round alive travel experience I've known in many years. 

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Lessons in Life... From Cats

Posted by Simon on 29th, July 2017 at 16:37:01

I was taught a valuable life lesson by a cat this week. 

(Now that's the sort of opening line you don't get to write very often.)

In a shock move, I was in my local pub, trying to think through a problem with the teaching I was working on. 

And the answer Was Not Coming. Not At All. Not In The Slightest.

So I started getting distracted. And looking through a newspaper, and at my phone, when a cat hopped up onto the bar. 


And before you even think it, dear reader - because I know you - no, the lesson wasn't to start licking my paws, or any other part of my anatomy. 

Then the cat settled down and stared into space. Just Stared and Stared. As though it too had a problem to solve, and was going to let its mind run until the answer arrived. 

After a few minutes, the creature nodded sagely to itself and strolled contentedly off. Cat World problem, whatever it may have been, clearly sorted. 

So I followed its example. And instead of playing with phone, or reading paper, I too let my mind run. 

And lo and behold, the answer came. 

Good life lesson, that cat. For writers, thinkers, and humans everywhere. 

The feline had another lesson for me, of course. A less subtle one - 

Hanging out in pubs is good for you. 

But then, I already knew that. 

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... But Not Good Enough

Posted by Simon on 22nd, July 2017 at 18:09:41

Twice this week I've heard the dreaded words - "That was really good."

Why dreaded? When it sounds like praise? 

Because my mind always thinks - 

If it was only good... then it wasn't good enough. 

Admittedly, one occasion was talking to myself, when thinking about some of my teaching for the excellent Swanwick Writers' Summer School next month.

The other came in feedback from an inspiration and careers event I did at Huish Episcopi Academy in Somerset.


In both I knew I'd done a good job. But that's the problem, and always has been.

For me, good just isn't good enough. 

And you know what? That used to frustrate me. But now I'm very glad about it. 

Because I've noticed something fascinating in life. 

The good guys and gals, the ones who always do their best, and always do it very well, the ones you love working with, have an endearing trait - 

Everything they do, they come away saying - "That could have been better." No matter how damn well they did.

Whereas the ones who are much less competent / talented / diligent / pleasant tend to say - "Well, that was good." 

(Often accompanied by the killer line - If I do say so myself.)

So here comes a strange and rather twisted, but still amusing (for me, at least) summary - 

Good for the bad = bad. 

Bad for the good = good. 

Which always leaves the good ones striving for even better. Which is one of the things we love about them.

So I'm off now to rewrite my Swanwick course, and future inspiration and careers talks, and I know I shall do it time and time and time again...

And I'm very glad about that. 

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Unexpected Characters Two

Posted by Simon on 16th, July 2017 at 08:09:54

(even computers can be unexpected characters and have mad wobblies - as per the unfinished blog above - so here's the rest...)

... and I was taken to the coffee shop, and given tea and a white chocolate cookie (they sure know the way to a writer's heart.)

Then escorted to the hall, to meet the IT supremo, who had my presentation all loaded up, and a clip on microphone ready to go. 

And the young people were all smartly dressed, and smiling, and well behaved. 

Which then translated into me grinning along and having a splendid time. 

You can contrast that with some schools I've visited, where no one is waiting for you, and no one knows you're coming, and nothing's been prepared for you, and how differently such events go...

Even organisations have a character. And it comes from the top. 

And here's the final point. 

Like-minded characters establish relationships with each other. So when I was asked to return to Huish, to do some more work with other students, I said yes immediately. 

And I'm already looking forward to my return. 

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