It will surprise no-one reading my blog (is there anyone reading it?) that I do not throw myself into celebrating the New Year. The next year is to come, it is as yet a fantasy, perhaps it will not live up to the champagne bottles and grand hurrah.

Better to be thankful for the old year; the friends and relationships, my loving husband, my work, my writing, my passions, which have, once again, made its passing possible. Though I am cognizant, perhaps even forgiving, of the bitter moments, I will not let them flavour the whole of my palette, submerge the sweet tastes of 2008.

Our local paper does a page long interview with local worthies each week and they are always asked what motto they live by. I began musing over what mine might be and it came out as something like:

Live simply. Notice the changing seasons.
Trust your gut. Follow your heart.
Nourish your soul.


You have to be something of an optimist to be a writer. So said the iconic writer Harold Pinter who died in the last day or so. This had never occurred to me, as I consider myself a pessimist and feel that it is more often than not my despair and dread which leaks into my work.

I guess what he meant was that in trying to communicate even the most hope-less of messages, we writers carry the slenderest faith that our words may have an effect, perhaps even open up the possibility of change. Otherwise why would we bother?

I continue to rail, therefore, against the forced jollity of this time of year, condemning the crushing commercialism and obscene over-indulgence. And ask: where is the stillness, the silence, the peace?


I wonder if anyone else's imagination has been caught by BBC correspondent, Aleem Maqbool's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem (

"This was never supposed to be about the donkey," he writes ruefully at the beginning of his blog. What he hasn't grasped is that the story is always about the donkey. The donkey who wouldn't leave her village. The one who didn't have the right papers to cross the border. The one who refused to leave the secluded bye-ways to join the busy road. And the one who is just too slow to make it to Bethlehem on time.

As I log on again for the next chapter, it is the four-hoofed companion I want to read about. Trust me, Aleem, your narrative is most definitely about the donkey.


Alice Negotiates a Writing Workshop
on my paper.
You who smile so much
beautiful garden large and.
I knew them once.
Now they are forgotten jumblings,
large garden and beautiful.
I did not write them,
though they are there
on my paper.
I cry for the little girl
fastened in my garden
large and beautiful.
You offer me tissues.

There's another piece of paper I haven't written on either, though it is covered in neat words. I know what you want me to do. Choose one. "Cobweb," I say. And you smile your wide smile.

Yes, yes, yes!

By Kate Evans, 2008


On one side of the train, the world in monochrome, on the other, the world in colour. The sky splits like a cotton seed dyed a ferocious pink, its flush slashed by the palest of blue. Below the land is still and frost bound, the nude trees black against the fierce blush. Golden fleeced sheep stand sentinel, their faces placidly awaiting the light.

"I wish I was talented, a talented writer, artist, performer," a woman opposite me confides to her colleagues. "But I'm not, I'm an organiser."

I frequently ask myself whether what I write is good or good enough, am I a good enough writer? But I don't often consider whether I have a talent for it, if my work is better than that of others because of an innate gift. I have read some unengaging or mediocre writing, and I tend to assume the writer is unmotivated or hasn't yet learnt to let themselves go or, conversely, to craft. That they may not have the flair for it, doesn't occur to me.

Does it matter? I do it because I feel compelled to, and because I enjoy it. Here I am on a train and while others read or chat or snooze, I write. If someone told me I was untalented as a writer, I'm not sure this would make a difference. And I'm not sure I would believe them.


So here I am, intent on appearing professional, having my CRB check with the Director of Patient Services, the person I want to impress. She opens my passport and starts to laugh. And I think, how rude, my photo's not that bad. She holds it out to me, it takes a moment to register that the image is of a bearded man. The obvious, and indeed rational, explanation, that I have picked up my husband's passport by mistake, does not come immediately. Instead my mind is indignant, who has dared to replace my photo with this alien one, of some random person, who I don't even recognise?

Luckily, my brain gets between thought and word and paints a grin on my face, as I twitter, oh gosh, how silly of me.

"Never mind," she replies, "At least it gave me a laugh this morning." Perhaps she is compassionate or maybe she thinks poets can be forgiven for being scatty.


I've had this blog post on my "to do" list all week, but have been submerged under marking student assignments. It's a tricky business appraising other people's writing, being aware of the subjectivity of it, and constantly asking myself, what (apart from university requirements) am I doing this for? How is my feedback going to be helpful? How can I get the right mixture of encouragement and challenge? What do I know anyway? I actually think I am pretty good at it, though some of my students may not agree. I do trust that I grade relatively fairly and give a focused critique which intends to assist in development.

I have some trusted writer friends, and we swap our work for comment. Outside of this and the university context, I am reluctant to offer anything more than bland reassurance to people who want me to read their poems or stories. In the past I have been asked to offer a critique and have spent hours reading and reflecting and crafting my feedback, only to find that it falls on stopped up ears. Mostly people want to hear, yeah it's great. And mostly, I can't be bothered with that, it takes up too much of my own precious writing time.

I have used some websites where my work is anonymously critiqued, while, in return, I anonymously critique that of other writers'. This I have found useful, though, again time consuming, because to get my own appraised by four people, I had to appraise four others.

I am relatively new to blogging, so it is exciting to be contacted by another blogger and told that I am on her blogroll. Having looked at her site, I am happy to return the favour: