Sunday, 28 December 2008


I just heard Gillian Slovo being interviewed by Mariella Frostrup on Open Book, say, "Fiction gets us closer to the truth. You have to really inhabit your characters - live them deeply however loathsome they may be on the surface. Non-fiction obfuscates the truth because it is loaded with facts."
This was a discussion about writers' relationship to their characters, often members of their own families. Gillian Slovo appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Committee along with the men who murdered her mother. She came to know them intimately.

THOUGHT TWO (Same day, but can't remeber who said it.) The consolation of the Imagination is NOT imaginary consolation.


Queens Park, London. A Blazing fire. Watching Wallace and Gromit with the three grandchildren plus mum and dad and daddad Mikey -- and oh, the new dog: the black kamikaze whirlwind with eyes like saucers and blood-drawing needle teeth. A manic pint-sized pooch name of Tet Suya (hope I've got that right.) Pushed in face; inch-high legs with a wagglethumb of a tail; thinks he's a bull fighter. That's because he hasn't been out of the house yet and has nothing to measure himself by, except soppy humans who minister to his every need -- at the moment, anyway, and when he's not taking leaps at the baubles hanging on lower branches of the Christmas tree or chewing the electric cables. This activity, he's learning, triggers wallops with rolled up magazines.

The tree, an 8 footer fills the bay window space, and is knee-deep in pressies and decked with lights.

Then there was the goose-feast. The bird had been brought up from the Devon/Dorset border by Michael three days earlier, and now, cooked to a turn by Sandhya, it reposed on a dish of fresh bay leaves, its golden-brown breast topped with bouncing and glistening cranberries and succulent slices of quince in a red wine gravy. Squeezed between the crackers and the glasses were its companion dishes; crisp roasted potatoes, a dish of roast pumpkin, onion and chestnut, and another of thin green beans with shitake mushrooms. There was a strong Japanese flavour to the whole day. From the cups of green tea, to a new DVD of Spirited Away from the wonderful creative imagination of the Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki who made Howles Moving Castle and Laputa, to the minuscule Tet Suya; name meaning Arrow of Philosophy. At least the arrow bit was fairly accurate.

That was Christmas. What more do you want!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


VERY LITTLE TO REPORT LAST MONTH, not because there wasn't anything going on, but because there was too much - a lot of family stuff including older generation illness and death. But also more work than I could cope with around the business of finding eager buyers for This Strange and Precious Thing, i.e. my new book. Marketing! That's the last thing I wanted to let myself in for, but it seems to be the inevitable consequence which follows writing a book.

And now it's December. And Christmas rushing up. Lordy, Lord! Which brings me to ... BANANAS

Late last Spring I noticed a strange bump. We have this banana tree in the house - we've had it since it was a baby, and almost lost it at the old house where we kept it in our conservatory which went unheated through the winters. Twice it almost gave up the ghost. But three or four years ago we downsized, and moved to a two floor cottage in Combe Down. Small as you enter it from the street, but amazingly spacious when you get inside - and, it included a built-in conservatory at the end of the sitting room. So our plants, as it were, live inside with us.

Discovering this bump one day, I took a closer look. A strange growth! I had to look closer. Hard to believe what I was seeing. Hidden under its great green leaves was a purply flower and a couple of mini bananas. My friend Kirsten, who was with me at the time and heard me squeal in disbelief, rushed over, camera in hand. (She just happened to have a camera in her hand.) Maybe this is everyday stuff; maybe everyone has bananas growing in the corner of their rooms, but for me it was sheer magic.

Throughout the dreary summer -- remember it? -- it rained -- but the flower flourished and the nanas kept on growing. Today I fondly inspected it again, wondering if it had taken fright at the frost on the windowpane. But the bananas are still defiant. A proper hand of half sized fruit, and I'm beginning to hope they'll go on growing through the winter.