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A sense of loss

I'm feeling as though I've lost a great friend. I've only known them for a few months, but they've become such a huge part of my life. I've come to love them and now they're gone.

And also this morning I'm reminded of the great TS Eliot quotation -

It's difficult to sum up the emotions but that's a part of this writing lark, so I'll have a go.

An Unnecessary Murder was like nothing I've ever done before. I've been given an insight into another world, the life of the stage, and it's been utterly fascinating. But that part I expected.

Here's what came as a surprise, the twist so beloved of we crime writers - it was the extraordinary, uplifting camaraderie. The taking of a group of people who largely didn't know each other and watching them grow into a team, close knit and bonded by the desire to do something worthwhile and do it bloody well.  And the privilege of being a part of that.

Last night, at home, after the final performance, I realised how it felt.  It took me back more than twenty years to the night I left university.  When a life forged in shared experience was coming to an end, and the world would never be the same again.

And that I never expected, and has come as the most moving part of an amazing journey.

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Those book choices..

A fine time appeared had by all at last night's World Book Event in Plymouth Central Library. I certainly enjoyed myself, and found the other panellists' choices fascinating.

As promised, my 3 literary picks (after all due agonising) -

1. Favourite Book as a Child - The Nonsense Rhymes of Edward Lear. 

I chose this because Lear gave me the great gift of friends to accompany everywhere with his characters (I was an only child and life could get lonely), and because I loved the imagination and rhythm and rhyme of the verse.  The humour was wonderful, too. 

On top of which, how he stands the test of time. His work is still read and loved by children today, more than 150 years on from its creation.

My personal favourite of the whole set - The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.  Because it's a mix of funny and also, as with much of his work, there's a little message in there.


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Tricky literary choice

I've been engaged in some enjoyable emotional wrestling of a literary kind - trying to choose some books of great importance to me.  And I'm wondering how you'd get on with the challenge?

Monday (April 23rd) is World Book Night, and I've been invited to Plymouth to be part of a panel to discuss some of our favourite books. But the cunning librarians have made it a lot tougher than that.

They've asked us to pick three books, in these categories -

1. You favourite book as a child

2. The book which has influenced you the most

3. Your guilty reading pleasure.

It's taken a great deal of thought, to say the least. Part three I managed to nail without too much agonising.  Number one took quite a while - there are so many to choose from!  Books were a great companion to me as a child and how many I read and delighted in.

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Counting down

It's a week to the opening of An Unnecessary Murder and I'm busily engaged in self-management.

I'm trying to distract myself with work, writing, exercise, composing even dafter than usual tweets (quick aside - I'm proud to now be followed by the UK Asparagus Festival - how wonderfully random is that?!), but not much is working.  The play won't leave my mind.

I'm not surprised.  It's the first time I've tried a venture like this, and you know what doing something new can be like. Plus with this writing lark you inevitably expose part of yourself, a piece of your soul in your work, which makes it all the more daunting.

However, I do want to say this, and it's a massive thank you.  I've been so touched by all the support we've received.  From the cast and crew, of course, but everyone else who's got behind us - printing, designing, sponsoring, putting up posters, promoting the play on their work message boards and so much else. 

It's been a wonderful and incredibly kind effort and is hugely appreciated. Whatever may happen over these next dramatic days, I just wanted to make that known.

And now to the performance itself... I've been warned each night will be different.  There'll be ad libs, departures from the script, improvisations, varying reactions from the audience and so much more.  But that's what makes it live and that's what makes it theatre.

I'm a curious mix of abuzz with anticipation and utterly terrified.  But I'm also immensely proud of everyone involved and all we're doing for Hospiscare, such a fine charity.

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The simple pleasures

Time after time as I wander through this strange place called life, I've been grateful for one particular element of my outlook.  I'm blessed with not being materialistic.

Don't get me wrong, I like a few pleasures like any of us - a fine ale, good meal, a new shirt (not always terribly tasteful, it's true), but I'm not driven by accumulating wealth.

This little musing arises from a question I received about the tvdetective books, and Dan in particular.  As some seem to think he and I share much in common - how could they, when he's so bumbling and hopeless at so much of life?! - my correspondent wanted to know if I enjoyed similar pleasures? Simple things like walking the countryside, time to think.

The answer is yes. I've never hankered after new kitchens, the latest model of car, luxury holidays, all that stuff.  I've tended to find contentment closer to home, and often just within myself.

I've never been driven by money.  So many of my fellows from college days have earned mass multiples of anything I've managed.  But that doesn't always make them happy from what I've seen - often far from it.

My pleasures are writing - I love the challenge, the fulfillment, and the opportunity to entertain a few people. The teaching work I do is hugely rewarding, and I still very much enjoy being a journalist, on the scent of a story, that sense of ferreting out a hidden truth that the public should know.

But on an even simpler level, just give me a walk around the river.  A few minutes watching the geese and ducks squabble over some bread, a cormorant fishing.  A drink in the pub with some of my fine friends.  Or a quiet night, trying to crack a crossword, listening to some music, or reading a book.  Maybe even composing some of the strange tweets which a few people have been kind enough to say they find entertaining.

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Going Cruising

No, not that sort of crusing, before you even start thinking it.  The proper type, like what on a big ship, see?

I've never tried a cruise before. So, it was a very pleasant surprise to be invited upon one to talk about the tvdetective books.  I'm off down to the Cape Verde islands later in the year, since you ask, sailing from Southampton, and with a few stops on the way.

To earn my passage, I've got to give a series of talks, and that's what is currently causing me more than a twitch of angst.  Six in total are requested, each almost an hour long.

It'll come as little surprise to you that I don't think I'll have a problem with talking for six hours. The issue is making that time in any way interesting, or vaguely entertaining.  Only now have I started to realise the scale of the task - hence these initial wobbles.

Last weekend, I set about the challenge by doing something I've never tried before.  I went back through all the talks I've done about my books (I keep the notes for each, they're a handy reference point for when called upon to say something with little notice) and set down every single anecdote, story, fact, quirk, idea, thought or detail I've ever spoken about.

The good news is that I reckon I can cover six hours.  The bad news is - only just!  It's going to be a tight squeeze. 

(If by chance you're reading this and you're coming on the cruise, may I ask a favour - you laugh for as long as possible at any gags I throw in, and also do some extended clapping too, please?  It all helps to fill the time.)

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Entertaining extras

I must just mention this, as it's been amusing me for days.

The producer of An Unnecessary Murder has hauled in a few extras for various scenes, and they're tending to be friends of both hers and mine.

Now, my friends are a wonderful, but by no means shy and quiet bunch, as I suspect you can imagine.  But when it came to their first rehearsal and the fledgling flaps into their parts... what a fascinating transformation!

They were so cutely touching.  A normally self assured and confident bunch went all withdrawn and bashful!  Ahhh!

I can appreciate it's intimidating, but what was particularly funny was the following. As they started to get their bearings, some became louder and more themselves, playing their parts perfectly well, but a couple - they just couldn't get enough, gobbling up all the available lines and even starting to ask for more!

Methinks we may have discovered a suppressed yearning to be on the stage and perhaps a shining future in amateur dramatics.

There is one specific tale I'll tell, without naming the chap as it wouldn't be fair (although tempting).  It appears that, for him, the little part he's been given is proving a kind of therapy.

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