Finished one – on with with the next!

It’s been a while, but here’s an update:

The book I started on in June was finished before Christmas. That is, the story was completed, but of course, it is not completely finished. I have sent the manuscript to someone who has kindly agreed to read it it and give feedback.

In writing, and in anything, to be open to critique, especially negative, destructive, damaging, painful, crushing criticism is absolutely crucial. So-called “constructive criticism” is too often a cover for a lack of ability to accept one’s own faults and weaknesses.

On that happy note, I can say that without some painful criticism of my first novel, the semi-autobiographical In Good Faithimg_6272, I would never have had the idea to the story that I have now completed. The working title for that is Calling to Kill, although I am also considering How to Kill a Pastor. Do please let me know which you like best. Answers on a postcard (or just in the comments section). The criticism sparked a thought that turned into a pale flame that eventually became a roaring fire of inspiration and the new story became a reality.

Having completed this story, I decided to take it easy over Christmas, and read an Evelyn Waugh story (Put Out More Flags) and the spoof Famous Five story Brexit Island, which someone gave me for Christmas.

As Candlemas put an end to Christmas it was time to turn my attention to a book project that I started a few years ago. The idea had started as the story of four students going up to a university loosely modelled on Oxford/Cambridge, and the experiences that influences their process towards their more mature self. After just above 46000 words I had become stuck. Well, now I have come unstuck, so to speak. The story will have a death. It will be a killing of some sort, but is it murder? You will have to read the story to find out. It has an evil professor and a good don. It has some great characters, and some loathsome ones.  Some inspiration is drawn from the concept of the Stepford Student.

The original working title was The Students, but now it is Oliver or The Body in the River. How about that? The book will have sex and violence, so it is bound to be a best seller.

Publishers, here I am.

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Clare in the Community

On Remembrance Sunday, 13th November, I had the pleasure of taking my daughter and two of her friends to the tiny village of Clare in Suffolk. The village sports an antique/second hand emporium that I like to visit, and the ruin-remains of what was once a motte-and-bailey castle, that my daughter likes to visit. But the main purpose of our visit on the 13th November was to take part in a Remembrance Sunday service.

The church of St Peter and St Paul in Clare is one of the around 500 medieval churches in East Anglia. The size and beauty of the church testifies to the wealth and importance of the area in the medieval period. Some interesting facts can be found on the church’s own website here. More on the history of the church on this Clare history website.

A remembrance service is yet another opportunity to reflect on the importance of sacred buildings, such as this, to our communities and to our souls. I may not share the regular church-goer’s literal belief in God, but there is no substitute for the sense of sacredness (in Norwegian we have the term “høytid“, which literally means a high, in the sense exulted,  time) that the physical frame of a church building provides. It is one of the few remaining places where we come together, not to be entertained, but to create meaning in the occasion, by our actions and our togetherness.

In the case of this service to remember with gratitude and respect those who gave their lives in the two word wars of the last century, to save us from the tyranny of totalitarian regimes. Coming shortly after the divisive referendum, there is, I believe, healing in knowing that the entire nation is coming together, in similar actions all across the country, to unite around the values that bind us together as democrats and believers in the freedom and dignity of the individual.

The Tin Chapel

There was a time when churches were not turned into luxury flats or storage rooms, but when those people who lacked one demanded one, much in the way some people today protest if they don’t have a Waitrose within strolling distance. The people of Henton, a tiny hamlet in the parish of Chinnor in Oxfordshire were seriously miffed that they had no church – a place for all to celebrate the arrival of babies, the coming of age of the youth, the marriage of the young and the departure of the old. And let’s not forget, the best place to have a chat and catch up on the latest gossip. Finally, in 1886, Magdalen College, Oxford, let some ground for the princely annual rent of 1 shilling to the rector and churchwardens of Chinnor “for the purpose of a mission room to be erected thereon“, and so the people of Henton finally could have their own place of worship. Boulton & Paul of Norwich had the honour of supplying the construction, which was a pre-fabricated building in wood, clad in corrugated iron. It was not Notre Dame or Westminster Cathedral, but it was a place where the good people of Henton could congregate once a month (low frequency of services because they were so remote), a place that was theirs to come together as a community. How telling of our times that before restoration took place between 1994-1997, it had fallen into disrepair and had even been vandalised since services stopped in the 1970s, whilst people got bigger and bigger television sets. And talking of television, it was used as a location in an episode of Midsomer Murders. It is currently residing in the excellent Chiltern Open Air Museum, where I had the pleasure of encountering it whilst on a weekend trip to the area.