Fry's English Delight on Radio 4 on the 18th of July was dedicated to brevity. So I will keep this short.

During the programme he talked about the Haiku, one of my favourite forms when writing poetry, with Caroline Gourlay. She said the Haiku captures a moment, it brings us to an awareness, it brings us to silence.

I had a big meeting last week and I lost my voice. I wrote:

the week I am to be heard,
my voice crawls away.

I found I wanted to change the last line to: my voice croaks because of the double meaning (to die). I'm still not sure which I prefer, however, the first version gives me the syllables normally required for a Haiku. Although, as Gourlay also suggested, I know the syllable 'rule' for the Haiku could be seen as spurious, given that the Chinese and Japanese languages (where the form originates) uses characters and not words which can be broken down as ours can.


The question is whether I am going to be the only blogger in the world (or, at least, in the UK and the US) not to post about the Murdochs? And it is tempting to think that there is nothing else going on of import, however that would be wrong. Wars are still being fought, peace is still being pursued, famine and poverty are still killing. Awful as what went on at the News of the World was - and I have always said it was a shabby enterprise and wondered why people propped it up by buying it - these other truths are equally as weighty.

We have two young, female language students staying with us, one from Spain, Laura, and one from Switzerland, Selina. Last night around the dinner table we tried to put the world to rights. Laura said she would give half the wealth from the richest in the world to the poorest. Selina said she felt the money should go into sustainable projects rather than to individuals. I said that it's been proved many times over that educating girls and women was effective in lifting the whole family out of poverty.

Laura, in particular, reminded me of myself as a late teen, ambitious for her writing, idealistic, fiery. She said if you're not a dreamer when you are young, it will never happen. Perhaps she is right. I have certainly become more cynical, more world-weary, less sure of what might bring about change. For Laura and Selina I hope that the future will not buff off their sparkly edges quite so much and that their ideas will be given the opportunity to shine.


My article on Writer's Block has been published. You can see it at:

Obviously any comments or thoughts would be gratefully received by email!


It is sometimes - though not always - reassuring to hear other (more famous, more published) writers talk.

Desert Island Discs, Radio 4, 17th June, 2011
Kirsty Young: When did you realise you were a writer?
Andrea Levy: Any day now.

Even one as Andrea Levy struggles with seeing herself as a writer. Writing, putting marks on a paper which form symbols that others can interpret, is something the majority of the population in this country do in one form or another, at one time or another. Yet to be a writer appears to be mean more than this.

Margaret Atwood (Negotiating with the Dead, Virago, 2003) suggests:
'A lot of people do have a book in them … But this is not the same as “being a writer.” Or, to put it in a more sinister way: everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger. The latter takes a good deal more stamina and persistence. It is also, because of the nature of the activity, a deeply symbolic role. As a grave-digger, you are not just a person who excavates. You carry upon your shoulders the weight of other people’s projections, of their fears and fantasies and anxieties and superstitions…' (p23)

It has taken a lot for me to own the title writer. And it is still a work in progress, especially when the reviews are bad. Or, worse, there is no feedback at all - no-one is interested in what I am doing. At moments like that, the only way forward, for me, is to keep putting those strange symbols down and hope at some point they will make sense and have meaning to another person.