Friday, 28 August 2015


It is never easy to write a good-bye letter even when you know when you are expected to leave. When you don’t, it becomes almost impossible. I would compare this to letters between spouses written during the war: the desire to be upbeat and so present a cheerful front while on the other a hand a need to share the terror.

At least there is one question I can ignore: that I shall survive: answer – no. But that leaves when and how painful.

My incredible doctor popped in yesterday; he will never know how much that meant to me. During the course of the conversation, he asked me if I was feeling fearful and I was forced to say ‘no’. It would have been dishonest but I am grieving for all the friends to whom I shall be saying good-bye in the coming weeks, if only I knew how long that is going to be. Yes, I am surprised at how quickly things have deteriorated.

So is this? Probably unless thing change for the better. So, let us treat it as one. Thanks for your support and please keep it coming.

Much love to you all, thanks for all the fish and farewell.

Friday, 21 August 2015

A River Trip

On the basis that most of you will never have seen the River Dart, Roger and I thought it would e rather fun to take you on a boat trip down to the mouth of the river and then back as far as the Higher Ferry.

We are now in the mouth of the river looking back towards Castle and St Petrox Church.

This might not be particularly photogenic but is of extreme importance to the seamen who use the river after dark. A series of leading lights, of which this is the first, guide them safely into the harbour itself.

A glimpse up Warfleet Creek at the head of which is the old Dartmouth Pottery now converted into luxury accommodation.

As we move inland we see some of Dartmouth's most prestigious properties hanging on the steep hillside.

Low tide reveals narrow beaches.

Somewhere in this picture you will find Evie's Merchant House and, crouching on the foreshore, her boathouse.

We are now opposite the North Embankment. The yellow coloured building is the old station cafe on the end of the Boat Float.

Roger, very sensibly, gave the lower ferries a wide berth. The ferryman are superb but these ferries are extraordinarily difficult to control.

Last year a fully refurbished and gleaming paddle-steamer, The Kingswear Castle, returned to the river after an absence of many years.

A general view of the town of the town looking over to the North Embankment with the Britannia Royal Naval College on the skyline.

All aboard for Paignton.

The Higher Ferry.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Writer's Block

Under normal circumstances I know what I am going to write about for the Friday blog by Thursday evening at the latest. Indeed, in many cases The blog itself is written on the Thursday.

Then we have the exceptions: the days when I just have to hope that something will come to me early on Friday. The fact remains that for the last four years or so, I have found something to talk about in time – but not this week. This week I am suffering from writer’s block – that terrifying time when no matter what you do your brain remains a stubborn blank.

I am often asked how to cope with writer’s block (although I really don’t know why people think I know the answer. I always say that I am a firm believer in ‘hitting the keys’. It doesn’t matter what you write so long as you hit the keys and the odds are that, sooner or later, you will find that what you are writing is beginning to generate the ideas you so desperately seek. Then you can delete everything that doesn’t matter and away you go. Anyway, that’s what I am doing now.

I would like to be able to report that as a result of hitting the keys I have come up with something really fascinating to talk about but that simply isn’t true today so I will just tell you what little news there is.

Marcia’s copies of the books arrived from Transworld the day before yesterday and so the sitting room has, once again, been turned into a temporary warehouse. Marcia gives one each to her son and her sisters but if you give books away locally you are undermining the book shops who are finding survival at the moment pretty difficult. When the books are a few years old, we give any that still have to one of hospices who have charity shops.

Meanwhile everyone is busy working out the logistics for the signings this year. It all happens bang smack in the middle of the holiday season when the roads in the south west are bursting with visitors and, more to the point, so are the car parks. Then matters are complicated because Marcia doesn’t want me left alone for any longer than I must be. However, the fact remains that if you want to be able to guarantee a parking lot in Tavistock on a summer’s Saturday morning, you will be there before 9.45 – even though the signing does not begin until 11 – and there is no point in arriving only to find there is just no where to leave the car. The trouble is that you then have to take a decision: join the queue at one the large car parks and hope that you will find a spot in time or trawl around the smaller ones hoping that you will be lucky and someone will pull out at the right moment. This is not the sort of stress Marcia wants just before a signing!

Before I wind up this miserable blog, may I say a big thank you to all of you who leave comments in the blog or who send in emails. Your support has been tremendous and I am very lucky to have it. Please don’t stop just yet.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Novelists at literary festivals

Marcia once gave a talk at the Porlock Literary Festival and a reader who lives on Exmoor emailed me earlier this week telling me, amongst other things, that she had attended that festival.

Marcia at the Porlock Literary Festival.
Ways With Words is the annual literary festival held here at Dartington and they have only just packed up and disappeared for another year. Anyway, thinking about that email and the WWW festival made me ponder on the value of such festivals. It’s fine for people who are in the public eye – or want to be – but they are rarely professional novelists who write for a living. Indeed I am tempted to say that they sell books because of who they are rather than because of what the books are. Which is great, I have no problem with that.

Ways With Words. This tent is where Waterstones have speakers' bok available for signing.
The entrance to the Great Hall is to the right.
From the creative novelist’s point of view, attending a festival is rather like being a hermit crab pulled out of its shell: the feeling of exposure is immense. All the creative novelists I have met are people who work alone and who put a huge amount of themselves in their books. Having done that they see no point in talking about themselves – they would far rather that the books did that on their behalf. In any event, such novelists have only one story to tell: how they became novelists. This means that there is no point in them attending any festival more than once: the same people come year after year.

Time for a litle somethng.
They can’t really talk about the books they have written as can a politician or an historian. It may seem odd but once a book is done and dusted it is almost forgotten and to try to talk about them is almost impossible. I remember Marcia and I were in Rumour in Totnes some years ago when a slight acquaintance came up.

‘I have wanted to ask this for a long time,’ she said. ‘What happened to Claudia in the end?’

‘Who?’ asked Marcia.

‘You know, Claudia Maynard.’

‘Sorry, I don’t know anyone called Claudia Maynard.’

At which point, mercifully, said acquaintance's friend, who had been paying their bill, bustled up and whisked a very puzzled reader away.

It is said that one person can know no more than a hundred and twenty other people properly. For this reason most military organisations break their forces down into units of that size – in my day an infantry company would have somewhere about that figure – and in some big commercial operations they too arrange to divide the workforce into groups of about that number under a manager. I am not quite sure how many characters Marcia has created but there are a lot more than that: probably about eight hundred. It is hardly surprising that she forgets some of them with a decent prompt. Now, if that reader had asked, ‘I’ve often wondered about Claudia Maynard in The Dipper. What happened to her in the end?’ it would have made the right connection for Marcia – although I very much doubt whether she would know just what did happen to Claudia. It could be, of course, that Claudia will suddenly appear at Marcia’s shoulder and tell her.

I know we have dropped the weekly blog dog but there are times when I receive a few dog pictures I feel really should be shared so here are three. These guys belong to Denise Connolly. She lovingly calls them "the three hooligans".

This is Dakota. He will be five years old the end of October. We adopted him when he was 3 months old. He was rescued from a high kill shelter in Tennessee and brought with 34 other puppies to our local shelter, a NO KILL shelter, that I support with a few large checks every year and I do fund raising for them also. Dakota is a border/aussie/great pyrenees mix. A BIG baby!

This is Teddy. He's about 3 years old. We adopted him when he was 6-7 months old. He was in a high kill shelter in Kentucky and rescued by the Danbury Connecticut Animal Welfare Society. He's a aussie/spaniel mix.
Super smart boy!

And our third dog, adopted this past May, is Scotty. He was also from Kentucky and on the KILL list for that week when our local shelter manager grabbed him and a few older dogs and 29 puppies. Our vet says Scotty is about 2 years old. He thinks he is my body guard. We fell in love with each other instantly! This is the first small breed dog I ever had. He has the heart of a lion! He's some kind of terrier mix. So playful, can dance across the room on his hind legs and loves his squeaky toys.


Thursday 27th August at 11 am: Book signing in the Totnes Bookshop.

Friday 28th August at 11 am: Book signing in the Harbour Bookshop, Kingsbridge,

Tuesday September 8th from 5.30 to 6.30 in the Flavel Hall, Dartmouth. . This is an opportunity to come and meet Marcia Willett. Organised by Dartmouth Community Bookshop and Dartmouth Library.