A different kind of Eden

Around twenty years ago, I wrote a piece in the Times Educational Supplement  about Hunter Davies – long one of my favourite writers. He had coaxed his wife, the late novelist and biographer, Margaret Forster, into  being interviewed, by him, at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I loved her writing almost as much as his, andContinue reading “A different kind of Eden”

Owen arrives at Dottyville

One hundred years ago today, three years into the Great War, a diffident young Second Lieutenant stepped off the overnight sleeper at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station and emerged on to Princes St. He  had only sixteen months left to live of his short life, but what he achieved in that time would bring him fame, andContinue reading “Owen arrives at Dottyville”

The Best People in the Best Place

After my dad died when I was 5, I moved from Edinburgh to west Lancashire  a year or so later. First we lived in a country village called Euxton; its nearest neighbours included, Croston, Chorley, and Tarleton. It was a perfect introduction to the north of England for a wee boy who had lost hisContinue reading “The Best People in the Best Place”

Sea Birds Flying

Three songs made me cry when, eventually, and after many years, I first heard them performed live – “Sounds of Silence” sung by Paul Simon, “God only knows” from Brian Wilson, and “Wichita Lineman” performed by Glen Campbell on his farewell tour All three songs had been part of my life for forty years orContinue reading “Sea Birds Flying”

How are things at home, Casper?

I must have been teaching for around thirty years when a colleague brought me news that a former pupil of mine was now on the staff at a local primary school. He had been a smashing pupil and I could well imagine he would have become an excellent teacher. My colleague reported back: “He saidContinue reading “How are things at home, Casper?”

How do you take your tea?

The opening scene of the current series of “Happy Valley”, brainchild of talented, challenging, and creative Sally Wainwright: Two women sit on garden chairs having a drink and chatting. The sun is shining and they could be on holiday. It’s only when the camera draws back that we realise that they are in the backContinue reading “How do you take your tea?”

Mockingbirds and Rhododendrons

It was perfect. I was six years old and had just moved to England. Next to our house, in rural Lancashire, was a wood, known as Bank Lane. “Bank” referred not to a financial institution but to the banks of the brook that ran through it. I see from maps that the brook was calledContinue reading “Mockingbirds and Rhododendrons”

Writing a relationship

Wogan, Bowie, Rickman: all caused a stir in their passing; they had been major figures in mainstream culture for many years, they were familiar to nearly all, and considered part of the national consciousness, I suppose. However, personal reactions to the deaths of these people have been, naturally, varied, depending on whether they had beenContinue reading “Writing a relationship”