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Shock at the Front Door

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

IMG_1299‘Why? Why? Why does nothing ever get done when I’m away!’

I drop my bags, tear off of my coat. I have just walked back into the house after five days away on a writer’s retreat. The transition from beautiful, creative serenity to mundane, day-to-day chaos is simply too much for me to take.

The kitchen looks a mess. The dishwasher has not been emptied out. Dirty dishes pile up in the sink, empty beer bottles litter the table, cigarette smell emanates from the bin and the glass of the gas stove has been smeared with something I cannot identify.

The office in the attic looks only slightly better. The bins haven’t been emptied out, the boxes have not been tidied away. And when I open my desktop, I immediately notice that the latest editorial video that Anthony Cartwright and I recorded a week ago has not yet been uploaded onto youtube.

Back downstairs I put on yellow rubber gloves and begin to tackle the kitchen in a mad fury. I wish I didn’t need to come back. I wish I could just stay forever in the little cottage I rent in Norfolk from time to time. Live all alone – just writing and going for runs and not talking to anyone. Then no one could mess up my kitchen, my office, my life.

‘Hehem,’ I hear the Nymph clearing her throat in the corner. ‘Hello. Nice to see you back.’

‘I don’t want to talk to you,’ I say between clenched teeth.

‘I didn’t leave this mess,’ she says. ‘That was your son. You’re always in a bad mood when you come back to the house.’

She’s right. I find change-overs difficult. But I don’t want to admit that just at this moment. So I continue with my list of irritations.

‘You didn’t tidy the office. And don’t tell me that was James, because James worked from home this last week.’ I stop scrubbing the stove door. ‘But he’s in the doghouse too, ‘ I continue. ‘He didn’t even manage to upload the video.’

‘He tried though,’ I hear Peirene say. ‘But somehow the password had changed, and he needs you to rectify it.’

‘Oh, don’t always defend everyone.’ I have now turned to scrubbing the dirty pots where the dried residue of food has been stuck for days.

For a while Peirene is silent. Then she says: ‘Well, you might not be pleased to see me. But I’m pleased to see you. It’d be a pity if you were just living on your own and writing from dawn to dusk. We’re such a good team running this publishing house. I couldn’t do it without you.’

It takes a moment for the Nymph’s words to sink in, but then I take off my rubber gloves, turn to her and give her big hug. ‘I’m actually pleased to see you too. I like doing both, publishing and writing. But transitions are always painful for me.’

Peirene, who sometimes understand me better than I understand myself, just says ‘I know’.

Christmas Break

Friday, December 16th, 2016

The Nymph & Co are off on their Christmas break. Thank you for following our adventure in 2016. Have a wonderful Christmas and einen Guten Rutsch into 2017. We will be back here second week in January.



Writer’s Retreat

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

I’m on a writer’s retreat working on my fifth novel. Back here first week in November.  In the meantime, James and The Nymph are keeping the Peirene show on the road.


8265272536_538000b45f_zImage by Christian Gonzalez, creative commons.

Summer Blog Break

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

I’m on my annual summer blog break until first week of September. summer-chair-small

Reading Time

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Peirene and I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a peaceful festive season and einen guten Rutsch into 2016. May you  receive and give to others lots of exciting new books.  Thank you for your company this year. We will be back here second week in January.

Winter Chair copy

Off to Hay

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

I will take a blog break over the bank holiday weekend 25th -27 May and will then head down to  Hay for the literature festival  the following weekend where you can see me at an event on Sunday 2nd of June. Back here in full blog flow 2nd week in June.


Gone Easter Egg Hunting

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I am on Easter blog break and will be back here Monday 8th of April. Happy Easter. chair-wings-small

Happy Hour

Monday, January 28th, 2013

On Friday Peirene’s Roaming Store manager Jennifer turned up at Peirene HQ at 7.30am. By 8.30 we stood outside Highgate Tube StationPaper Boys.Image by  Children's Bureau Centennial handing out Peirene newspapers. It was our first distribution day. A trial run.

We were nervous. In fact the Nymph felt so nervous, she fell ill and couldn’t accompany us. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she sniffed with a heavy cold. ‘I would have loved to support you.’  Secretly, though, I think she was pleased. The illness saved her from embarrassment. ‘What if people see us who know me,’ she had objected when I first suggested distributing newspapers outside our local tube station. And for days she had toyed with idea of wearing a big hat and sunglasses as a disguise.

Jennifer and I started off with twenty newspapers each. Jennifer stood at one entry, I at the other. I told myself if I manage to get rid of those 20 in the next hour, I’d done a good job. 15 minutes later my hands were empty. What’s more, people had smiled at me. Even the ones who didn’t take a paper. I had also figured out that I could catch people’s attention with the words ‘Would you like a newspaper about literature.’  Indeed a couple of commuters who had walked straight passed me, suddenly turned around. ‘Did you say literature?’ I nodded. ‘Yes, foreign literature.’ ‘Oh, how fascinating, I’ll take one,’ they replied.

By 9.45 we had distributed 160 papers. I walked through the station to check how many had been dumped. I only found three. The rest had travelled into central London. We were thrilled. And even our cold feet didn’t matter.

On Monday morning Maddy will join Jennifer in West London, at Barons Court station. So far we have four days across London planned. Afterwards we will reassess. But the signs are looking good for expanding our distribution route. The Nymph has perked up too. ‘I might join you when the weather gets warmer, ‘she has announced. ‘Up to then, I will be your strategic route planner and will staff the office.’ She sighs, as if she has to deal with the lion share of the job: ‘After all, someone has to keep the business on a straight path, while you are having fun around town.’

Image by Children’s Bureau Centennial.