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Christmas 2017

A photograph of flowers from a Christmas wreath

I’m struggling with a lot of busy-ness at the moment, which I know has been evident here (it’s just taken a while for me to accept – I’ve missed posting). In that context, Christmas has come at the right time and I’m going to use it to read and get back to writing.

I’ll be back on Monday 8th January with my round ups. The pages for What’s In A Name will be posted on 1st January as per their set schedule – if you’ve signed up/will be signing up, you’ll find the link to them on the sidebar. (They won’t be on the blog home page – I don’t want them filling up everyone’s inboxes.)

I’m aware I have a few reviews left to write – they will be my first priority upon returning. A couple of Young Writer of the Year books and review copies.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and see you in January.

 
Up Farley Mount

A photograph of Farley Mount folly

On a not too cold day recently, I took a trip to Farley Mount, the highest point in Hampshire.

The highest point in Hampshire it may be but thankfully it’s not too high. The path leading to is very rutted in a way that suggests the heavy use of wheels at some point – it’s too narrow for cars – but compared to many paths to viewpoints it’s incredibly short and a lot easier, particularly when the ground is dry. This is your reward for 15 minutes walk:

A photograph of the view from Farley Mount

The views are 360 degrees or thereabouts – there are some trees – and stretch from Romsey to Winchester and beyond in both directions. I took quite a few photographs of the folly, the sun in the right place for my camera’s small sensor to produce good colours.

Inside, a plaque gives an idea as to the history of the place:

Underneath lies buried a horse. The property of Paulet St John Esq. that in the month of September 1733 leaped into a chalk pit twentyfive feet deep a foxhunting with his master on his back. And in October 1734 he won the hunters plate on worthy downs and was rode by his owner and entered in the name of “Beware Chalk Pit”.

The above being the words of the original inscription were restored by the Rt Hon. Sir William Heathcote Baronet Sep. AD 1870.

Outside the wind was biting, and a black cloud loomed overhead; with leaves coating the way back I didn’t want to spend too much time gazing out over the fields but it’s a place that visiting for a handful of minutes doesn’t feel a waste. Next time, though, I’ll remember to take a hat.

 
The 2017 Young Writer Of The Year Award

It’s become one of the highlights of the year: earlier this week, the shortlist for the Young Writer of the Year Award (The Sunday Times/Peters Dunlop Fraser) was announced. This time they’ve chosen 5 titles rather than 4:

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I read The Lauras last year and am very happy to see it on the list. Taylor was previously in the running for 2015’s award for The Shore and whilst it would be impossible to argue about the winner that year (Sarah Howe for Loop Of Jade) Taylor’s book was of a very high standard. Her latest is even better, a phenomenal book, and I hope it does well.

This year’s judges are Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate, and writers Elif Shafak and Lucy Hughes-Hallett. Shafak said:

“Our wonderful shortlist celebrates the depth and breadth of literature today, reflecting a striking diversity of styles, interests, genres and backgrounds. True, only one of these authors will win the prize in the end, but each of the five shortlisted books has already won our hearts, and we are confident that they will similarly win the hearts of readers worldwide.”

And this year’s shadow panel? Annabel Gaskell (Annabookbel), Dane Cobain (Social Bookshelves), Eleanor Franzen (Elle Thinks), Rebecca Foster (Bookish Beck), and Clare Rowland (A Little Blog Of Books). Congratulations to them all; it is an awesome job to have.

There can only be one question: have you read any of the shortlisted books?

 
The End Of An Era

A photograph of my cat

On Wednesday morning we lost my cat, Tabitha or Tabby, who had just turned 20. She was a trooper – she survived the shock of the death of her mother earlier this year, made it through two moves in quick succession, made a valiant effort pretending to hate the dog, and in her final days pushed back against the progression of a year-long illness.

Born to our half-wild/half-domestic cat, her ancestry was apparent. She was off the wall and always had to explore every nook and cranny no matter how many times she’d done it before. She could often be found sitting in the empty bath. She’d get locked in the shed by accident. She’d never sit on your lap, she hated being picked up, and would let everyone but me touch her belly. But she was incredibly loyal; she could often be found sitting on the very edge of my desk trying to find a way down from a place she really shouldn’t have jumped to or would sit on the top of the back of the chair I was sitting on, knocking her head against mine. One of the most Tabby-like photos I have is of her lying on her back; she loved rolling around outside and would do it more if she knew you were there.

It would be fair to say this human has lost her mistress; frequently, instead of spending time with me, she preferred to spend time trying to usher away from us the dog (and my parents… and friends…).

Tabby was the last remaining cat of four in our family; Badge, a classic black and white; Dusty, the grey half wild cat, Harry, Tabby’s litter mate who died long ago (another lives with a friend). It’s going to take some getting used to – I loved her to bits, as I know many of you will relate to – but there are plenty of wonderful memories.

 
The Polari First Book Prize 2017

The Polari Prize logo

I wanted to take a moment to feature the Polari First Book Prize. I was given the opportunity to read last year’s winner, The Good Son by Paul McVeigh, and, having it enjoyed it, when I was offered the shortlist this year I said ‘yes’ to a couple of them (time restraints). I didn’t know much about Polari other than the fact there was a prize and so decided to look into it, so, full disclosure, I’ve been asked to review some books which will happen soon, but this post is of my own making.

Paul McVeigh

Photo credit: Krystyna FitzGerald Morris

The Prize is for LGBT books, books that explore the LGBT experience. Entries are accepted in all forms – poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and self-published works are welcome. On the shortlist lasy year was Andrew McMillan’s awesome poetry collection, Physical, that was high on the list for the Young Writer of the Year, too.

This year’s shortlist (lots of independent publishers):

    Expecting by Chitra Ramaswamy (Saraband)
    Guapa by Saleem Haddad (Europa Editions UK)
    We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire by Jules Grant (Myriad)
    Straight Jacket by Matthew Todd (Bantam)
    The Vegetarian Tigers Of Paradise by Crystal Jeans (Honno)
    Jerusalem Ablaze by Orlando Ortega-Medina (Cloud Lodge)

I’ll be reading the Ramaswamy and the Ortega-Medina. The first is a memoir/essay collection, the second a collection of short stories.

The Prize was launched in 2011 by the Polari Literary Salon, a once a month Arts Council supported event hosted mostly at the Southbank Centre in London. To mark the Salon’s 10th anniversary (so that’s 2011 for the Prize, and 2007 for the Salon), they are doing an event tour that runs until October. Eighty authors are involved and the winner of the Prize will be revealed on 13th October at the Southbank Centre as part of the London Literature Festival.

The tour started in June. Here are the remaining dates:

    13th September: Printworks, Hastings
    15th September: Lewisham Library, Lewisham
    17th September: The Place Theatre, Bedford
    22nd September: Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
    8th October: Birmingham Literature Festival
    13th October: Southbank Centre (winner revealed)
    20th October: Marlborough Theatre, Brighton
    24th November: Southbank Centre, London
 

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