The world’s gone wrong – No 2

cavemenA chat with a health and fitness expert in my office this morning led me to discover that REAL MEN are now going Palaeolithic.

Men who wish to look like MEN and feel like MEN have now turned their back on the 21st century and are only eating the kinds of food cavemen would have recognised.

For a moment I am interested. After all we all know our food is way too messed around with nowadays to be good for us. I’m all for a bit of organic but it seems this trend has gone further.

Men, I am told, are also turning their back on the gym and instead are doing real work.

“Like hitting things with a hammer.” The guy says.

“Great,” I say. “So are they building things?”

I get a look of incomprehension.

“No,” he says. “They just hit tyres with a hammer. It’s the exercise that’s the important thing.”

Here is postmodernism gone mad. We don’t create, we don’t do work which involves sweat and has a purpose. We just go through the motions to look like the kind of man that might have a manly job. Maybe this is what passes for normality these days. Maybe if I didn’t work in a world where people got their muscles from chopping down trees and scything their way along rivers then I wouldn’t think this was odd.

Something is missing in this equation and I can’t quite put my finger on what. It has something to do with value. It has something to do with purpose and worth. It is, as Jean Baudrillard said, a simulacrum, something where the image bears no relation to reality.

So the Palaeolithic men look like cave men, they can bash hammers against tyres and get the physique of a  cavemen but I wouldn’t fancy their chances against a sabre toothed tiger.

The world’s gone wrong – No 1


This morning as I travelled into my local town I was stuck behind a small white van with a sticker on the rear. ‘Cyclists. Stay Back.’ Now, being of a bloody minded and contrary nature, my immediate reaction was to want to pass. Who did they think they were, commanding me to Stay Back?

Some would say the message was there for my own safety. That if I dared to pass a vehicle I deserved all I got when it didn’t see me and flattened me. But, I, on my bicycle am not the danger, vehicles are. Why can’t I have a jacket which flashes such demands to motorists. ‘Don’t turn left in front of me.’ ‘Sort your exhaust out it is leading me to a slow death.’ ‘Get off your phone and pay attention.’ Oh I long for the day when such a thing is invented.

While we’re at it. Why should I be forced to share town centre roads with dangerous lorries and vehicles which have blind spots and can’t see other road users? Why can’t their goods be moved by trains and distributed into towns by smaller vehicles? If these vehicles can’t be changed to be safe then should they be on our streets at all?

But would I have been so annoyed if the sign had been worded in a way which didn’t sound like it was issuing an order? That didn’t make me feel like I was a second class road user who should know my place and give way to my betters? If it had been worded in a way that made me aware that the vehicle in front wasn’t up to scratch when it came to visibility and apologised for that?

To make matters worse this sign had been issued by Transport for London. By the Mayor of London no less. Shouldn’t they be promoting green transport not blaming cyclist for road accidents? And what are they doing issuing orders to cyclists in the Medway towns anyway?

Cyclists have as much right on the roads as everyone else. After all we were there first. I won’t be commanded to stay back. I will make decisions based on my own road awareness and common sense which is more than can be said for many people who sit behind the wheel.









How to cope with criticism.


Carol has a moment of self doubt. photo: Radical Honey

Ok, so what happens when you send your chapters to the agent and they don’t fall in love with them? If you’re like me you go through a whole range of emotions.

For one, you ignore all the positive comments and just focus on the negative ones. Yes, this is because the negative is easier to believe but also because the positive comments you don’t need to do anything about and the negative ones you do.

Then you get depressed. You think, you can’t do this thing, write, after all. The first book was a fluke. Maybe it’s just a terrible idea and you should give it up and do something else.

Then, over the next few days you remember why you wanted to write this book in the first place. That you love this story, that you have things you want to say to the world through it. That you have been enjoying writing the whole thing so, so much, until now.

Then your story becomes like a child that you’ve invested in and, even though it’s gone off the rails, you still believe in it and want to do your best by it. So you take a deep breath, sit down with it and begin to look at what needs to be done to improve things.

It’s a lot of work. You will need to start again, right at the beginning. Slow down, stop the headlong dash to get to the end and set out on a new course. And so you begin…again.

Through all this I still know what a privilege it is for a professional to take the time to read and really think about my work and offer truthful and helpful advice. This is where I take heart that I have wriggled my way onto the next rung of the ladder.

I’ve been in the other place. The one where you send your chapters off and get no feedback. I have been in that place many times and now I’m in this other place. The place of the soon to be published author where you can call your agent and they sound happy to hear from you and take the time to really go over what you’ve written.

Only time and hard work has got me there and that determination is what is needed now.

Happiness is…..a job you enjoy


photo MLP

It was one of those days when she knew how lucky she was to do what she did. To walk out on her own schedule with no one to answer to. To slip along the muddy path through the bleached stubble field, daisy ringed with the flowers of scented mayweed and feel the breeze wipe the worries clean and marvel at the scimitar winged flight of a kestrel.

A new beginning


And so it begins again. As I start to talk about publicity for my first book, On the Marshes,  which is due to be published in April, then I go back to the nerve wracking beginning of the whole thing and send a synopsis and three chapters of my new book to my agent. Asking that thing that I think, I hope, all writers ask. Is it any good?

Does any writer know if what they’re writing is any good before someone else tells them so? I know if the writing is going well, if it’s flowing, if I’m locked into it and enjoying it, if I want to keep writing it but, is it any good? That I find hard to judge alone.

So I send it out to friends and they tell me they really like it but still I don’t know if that’s enough. I kind of need that outside thumbs up from someone who I don’t feel is obliged to say it. I need someone in the writing world who reads a lot of this stuff to tell me.

External validation? probably. Deep seated insecurity? most likely but even the fact that I send it out at all says something. So many writers hide their writing away. Thinking they’re not good enough, unable to stand up under the eye of criticism. Never try and you never fail.

So sending it out at all also says something about me, something at the core of me, some deep seated self belief that writing is what I’m meant to do and it is what I would do even if I were alone in the world and no one ever told me if I was any good.

Rosehip Syrup

rosehip-syrupHere in England the clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and Autumn is upon us. It is time to gather in the remaining fruit from the hedgerows and prepare for the season of colds and sore throats and what better health tonic do you need than Rosehip syrup. One rosehip contains 30 times the vitamin c of an orange, so I am fond of quoting on guided walks. Just think what a whole spoonful of this stuff can do.

You needrosehips

1kg rosehips

2 litres of water (plus another litre for a second boil)

450g granulated white sugar.

Prep the rosehips by removing the stalk, cutting them into two and removing most of the seeds and small hairs. Do this with a knife and try not to touch the hairs too much, there is a reason that small children of yesteryear used the hairs as itching powder.

Chop the rosehips up a bit smaller and then throw them in a pan with the 2litres of boiling water.

Bring the water back to the boil and then take of the heat and let it steep for 15 minutes

Pour the juice into a jelly bag or some old tights and let the juice drip through.

Put the mush back into the pan with another litre of water and go through the process again to extract more goodness.

Pour the juice into a pan and reduce until you have about 1 litre left.

Once the juice has reduced, add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.

Bottle in sterilised warm jars.

It can also be frozen for later in the winter.



A Merry Perambulation – Part Two


At Cockham Wood Fort near Hoo St Werburgh

Part two of A Memory Perambulation, an account of a walk  in the footsteps of William Hogarth across North Kent, is now available to read at the online magazine Longshore Drift