Entries in Out & About (35)


My 'Children of Plynlimon' novels & Oxford Spires Academy

I really like being on my own in a hotel room with biscuits and a kettle, lots of hot water for a bath, crisp pillow-cases and my computer on my lap on the bed.  A whole uninterrupted evening of writing, and here I am at a quarter to midnight and I still don’t feel tired and everything in the world would be perfect if only the people in next room would only stop laughing and shouting [but then perhaps they’re thinking the same about my growling over my computer, obsessively read everything I’m writing out loud – nasty habit, but I can’t stop it I’m afraid].

I’m in Oxford.  Tomorrow I have a day of events lined up at Oxford Spires Academy in celebration of World Book Day, and afterwards I’m meeting poet and fellow Authors Electric colleague Dan Holloway for a drink before getting my train home.  All good things to look forward to.

As much as anything, however, I’m looking forward to talking to groups of children about my ‘Children of Plynlimon’ books.   I’ve done so many author events over the last few years on the Belize adventure and the writing of ‘In the Trees’ that it’s easy for these three precious books, that I laboured over so long and hard, to be overlooked.

Oxford Spires is particularly interested in the fact that these books deal with stories of alienation, which is fine by me. Alienation is something I’ve always written about - I’m certainly open to talking about it.   ‘Sabrina Fludde’. ‘The Red Judge’. ‘Mad Dog Moonlight’. All three children in these books are in search of a sense of family and a place to call home.  All three are children of mystery. One of them is trying to forget his past, the others are actively – and increasingly desperately - trying to find their pasts. None of them has what one would think of as an orthodox name, and that simple fact says something about their sense of separation from the world around them.

So that’s the general gist of what I want to talk about tomorrow.  Abren from ‘Sabrina Fludde’, and the street boy, Phaze II; Zed from ‘The Red Judge’; the mysteriously-named Mad Dog Moonlight – they’ll all be heading off on their river journeys again, following the three rivers - the Severn, the Wye and the Rheidol – that their stories are built around back to their common source on Plynlimon Mountain where lies the roots of all their troubles, and the solving of some of their mysteries, but definitely not all.  How boring life would be if all mysteries could be solved! 

More than the rivers, however, and Plynlimon Mountain where they have their source, these three books are about identity.  The children’s names are more significant than you’d think.  Here’s Mad Dog’s mother on the subject of the one she chose for him: ‘It’s not some crazy name we came up with off the top of our heads. It’s the name you earned for yourself the day you were born. It’s your name, and don’t you ever let anybody take it from you, because it’s who you are.’

I’m looking forward to tomorrow.  And now that the shouting has stopped next door, I’m looking forward to some sleep. Goodnight. 


Wild & Wonderful

Embedded on my website now.  For those of you who've missed it so far, enjoy. 

Wild and Wonderful from R & A Collaborations on Vimeo.



Wild & Wonderful - Connecting With the Sea

I'm interested in the way the sea makes us feel, the way it draws us to itself.  My mother grew up in a cottage by the sea.  There was never a moment when she couldn't hear it from her home.  She spent her childhood playing on the beach, climbing rocks, swimming.  It was in her blood.  At night, in the dark, she remembered her father walking up and down their little bay, captivated by the glossy black water. When tragedy struck in her family, she never returned, not as a child of the sea, only as a visitor from afar and that sense of displacement, that loss of what she'd grown up with - with what she'd once been - affected her for the rest of her life.

The first sea I ever remember was in Guernsey.  For me this golden stretch of sand, fringed with golden rocks and turquoise water was a place of extraordinary freedom. It was the polar opposite to my life in the suburbs of south London with their twitchy net curtains and hard concrete pavements.  Here in this wonderful wild place I didn't have to wear white socks, and bows in my hair, and be careful not to sit on the grass because I might get stains on my dress.  From morning to night I ran around the beach like a wild thing, exploring bay after bay, rock pool after rock pool, cave [and martello tower] after cave.  Consequently it seemed entirely natural to me - when I had children of my own - to return to the sea, taking them with me.

But it was a different sea we headed for this time.  Wild West Wales.  Pembrokeshire.  Every year we tumbled down the Welsh mountains and winding roads until we got there - a carload of children, parents, cricket bats, duvets, swimming gear, hiking gear and dogs.  How we packed ourselves and all our gear into one smallish car, I'll never know.  But the sea was always the same when we arrived there. Other things might change, like the garden in our much loved little cottage or the seaweed on the beach, but the waves were the waves, the sea was still the sea.  Nothing could change the way it broke on the shoreline, the way it ebbed and flowed, the way it sparkled in the sunlight, or lay like pewter in the mist or glistened in the dark like polished ebony.

And how I felt - feel - about the sea is how Nona felt about it in my novel, 'Telling the Sea'.  It comes out today in a newly edited format for the ebook market, published by Amazon Kindle. Nona's relationship with the sea was a dangerous one.  I, too, have had to learn that the sea is not my friend.  In some deep way I may feel as if it's a part of me, but I'm nothing to it, and this was the hard lesson that Nona, the heroine of 'Telling the Sea' had to learn at just thirteen.  She had to grow up quickly.  She had no choice.  

TELLING THE SEA is available on Amazon Kindle from today, priced £2.05

WILD AND WONDERFUL, a film about the writing of 'Telling the Sea' , filmed on location in Pembrokeshire, is available here for free.