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Archive for October, 2007

Red Squirrels!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Just before we went on holiday, we agreed to take over the web site of Red Squirrel Press: the timing was so tight that the night before we set off, I was busy re-making the front page to advertise the launch of their second publication, Kevin Cadwallender’s Colouring in Guernica!

We were very sorry not to be at that launch, which sounded great fun: Kevin is always an entertaining reader, and Sheila Wakefield, the driving force behind Red Squirrel, had created a special Red Squirrel award, just for Kevin, in recognition of all he has done to promote other poets in the north-east – and managed to present it, too, despite having fractured her elbow (ouch!) only a few days before.

So it was a particular pleasure to go last night to the launch of James Oates’ Wideyback, the third poetry collection from the squirrels’ drey. It took place in a smart bar in Newcastle, an interestingly shaped space, all alcoves, low lighting and plenty of sofas, which would have been perfect for the sort of party where you drift around and talk to different people – and I enjoyed the part of the evening where we did just that. It was a bit of a challenge to the reader, though, particularly since James Oates was losing his voice, and there was music seeping through from the main bar space next door.

The words more or less held their own, though, particularly performance pieces like the Bigg Market Tarantella, James Oates’ homage to Hilaire Belloc:

Do you remember the Blackie Boy, Amanda?
Do you remember the Blackie Boy?

or his consideration of the particular flavours of wet kisses on the metro, in which Valerie Laws joined him to read the lines attributed to Jilly Goolden.

Quieter pieces, like A Longing for Clear Blue Skies were harder to follow, and I was glad to be able to read them afterwards, on the page. But then, I’m lucky enough that reading poetry is part of my job: my task for this morning was to add two poems from Wideyback to the Red Squirrel web site – and two from Colouring in Guernica for good measure.

Homicide in Houghton

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

The small town of Houghton-le-Spring has been holding an annual autumn festival since the middle ages: Houghton Feast may have originated as a Michaelmas celebration, but it survives as an excuse for a fine mixture of community events, not to mention the ox roasting and all the fun of the fair (and of course, it always rains for some of the time at least!)

Sheila Quigley’s crime novels centre on the fictitious Seahills Estate in Houghton; so naturally Houghton Feast plays a large part in her books. She returns the favour by leading a walk, with the help of local historian Paul Lanagan, around some of the sites mentioned in her work. Cornwell Internet joined a group of enthusiastic fans on Saturday afternoon’s tour,

Someone had gone to great trouble to prepare the route beforehand. For example, the windows of the Library (the point of departure) were adorned with “Wanted” posters. And when Sheila paused at the footbridge, to read the opening of Bad Moon Rising in which a young woman’s body is found under that very bridge, she found herself standing next to a sad little bouquet of flowers commemorating the victim.

Although Sheila’s books are genuinely pacy crime thrillers, it was clear that the group of fans following her that afternoon also appreciated her creation of a whole community of characters, and were glad of the opportunity to picture those people going about their lives in a real place. And when would there be more news from the Seahills? Well, admitted Sheila, she should complete the next book, The Road to Hell, that night or the next…

We’ve been away

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Roger at Minerve No posts for the last month because Cornwell Internet has been on holiday: we were away for less than three weeks, but the few days before our departure and the few days after our return were filled with urgent tasks, meeting deadlines, picking up things that had arisen during our absence…

Nonetheless, we have definitely been on holiday, and here’s photographic evidence – Roger taking a breather during a walk around the French village of Minerve, in the heart of the Minervois wine region.

We couldn’t have done it all so seamlessly without Stephen Mellor minding the shop – and nipping crises in the bud – for us. Thank you, Stephen.

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