Thursday, 30 April 2009

Tony Hays and the Southampton Writers Circle

Tony Hays, American journalist and novelist, presented the Dorothy Loughran Trophy to a 'delighted' Barbara Jackson (with Tony Hays, left, and Chairman, Tony Collins) at the Southampton Writers Circle (SWC). Barbara's winning entry, The Spiral, was an eery tale set in a hospital, which sent chills up the spines of her listeners, when she read the story aloud after the award presentation.

The runner up was Dianne Sparkes for A Narrow Escape, a story of a fishing boat caught in a storm.

Tony Hays, commenting on how difficult a competition it was to judge, pointed out that all the entries had never failed to hold the attention of their reader, each having 'a vision which is beyond story.'

Hays, who came over to the UK specifically for this event, took the opportunity to speak about his latest book, The Killing Way,which came out in this country on Friday 1st May. It is described as 'an Arthurian mystery' set in Dark Ages Britain. The sequel, The Divine Sacrifice,which entailed six months of research in the UK, is due for release in March 2010.

Amongst the crowd last night was Barbi Smith, whose autobiography, So now you know, is leading her to new and unexpected places, from book signings to interviews for the BBC.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A Busy Week...Again!

Time does fly, doesn't it?

Last Tuesday I was delighted to chat to folk singer, Sarah Morgan, who met me to talk about Hampshire Folk Music for my forthcoming book, Folklore of Hampshire (to pre-order click Here). Sarah is one third of the folk trio, Craig; Morgan; Robson. These ladies, Moira Craig, Sarah Morgan and Carolyn Robson, have been wowing audiences with their unique renditions of Scottish, Hampshire and Northumbrian folk music since 2003 when they joined forces after very successful, and continuing, solo careers.

Sarah is very interested in the work of George Gardiner (1853 - 1910), who collected over a thousand folk songs in his travels in England and Europe. He was particularly interested in Hampshire, as little work had been done to preserve the folk songs in this county. He collected eighty songs from five ladies in Axford, near Andover. Some of these are now in the repertoire of the Axford Five, a folk group which Craig; Morgan; Robson has formed with fiddle and melodeon players, the Askew Sisters, Emily and Hazel. They will be playing at the Winchester MayFest on Friday 15th May.

Talking to Sarah made me realise just how much I do not know about the folk music of Hampshire. I will be doing further research on this subject for the book. In the meantime, it was a privilege to talk to Sarah and I thank her for sparing some time from her busy schedule to pass on her knowledge to me.

On Friday I was in Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, to attend the 21st birthday 'Pow-Wow' of Flair for Words. Run by the
talented and energetic duo, Janie and Cass Jackson, this turned out to be a far bigger affair than I had thought it would be. Members of the writing fraternity were out in force, with novelists and journalists rubbing shoulders with those aspiring to write for publication. There was a strong contingent of Society of Woman Writers and Journalists' members with Chairperson, short story writer, Jean Morris, heading the group. Peter Lovesey, Dagger Award winning crime
writer, (wearing dark shirt and striped tie, with Cass and Janie) was the guest speaker and he entertained the company with his observations of detective thriller writer, James Corbett, who kept audiences page turning in the 1930s and 40s. There was much networking going on, as there is at such events, and the lunch laid on by The Hermitage Hotel, right on the sea front, was excellent. Janie and Cass are to be congratulated on an excellent Pow-Wow and I wish Flair for Words a very happy 21st birthday.

The Southampton Writers Circle (SWC) is 61 years young and is to welcome American journalist and novelist, Tony Hays, to speak about his forthcoming new novel, The Killing Way, set in Dark Ages Britain, this evening, at theSWC's penultimate meeting of this season. Tony will judge the Dorothy Loughran Competition, for a short story up to 1,500 words, and will present the trophy to the winner.

I went along to the SWC's last meeting and met a group of intelligent, committed and interested published and aspiring writers. The SWC is the second longest established writing group in England and it says much for the enthusiasm of its members that it has kept going for six decades. I will be going along to the meeting this evening, armed with camera and dictaphone, and will be delighted to meet both Tony Hays and further members of the SWC. In the Autumn, when the new season starts, I will regularly report the events of this group.

If you are interested in joining the group, coming to hear Tony Hays this evening (the meeting will be at the Woodman Pub, Lordswood Road, Southampton, Hampshire at 7.45 pm) or have questions about the Southampton Writers Circle, please either contact me through this blog or the SWC secretary Barbara Jackson.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Overcoming a 'Probable' Problem!

I have been invited to speak at the Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire Regional Meeting of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) on 14th May. I will be talking about using photography to illustrate articles, hopefully showing that it is not as difficult as it might, perhaps, appear.

I have been working on a Powerpoint presentation, to illustrate some of my points. This is where it has got a bit tricky.

Yes, I do know how to use Powerpoint. What I need though is to have a projector and screen to physically show the presentation to the group and I was assured that the meeting's hostess would 'probably be able to help.' Well, with the 'probably' firmly in mind, I have been making contingency plans just in case.

I have not been using an Apple Mac computer for long. I am completely hooked now and wonder how I ever managed without it, but I am still learning all its many capabilities. I have a one to one training session most weeks with an Apple trainer and so I had a chat to him about putting my presentation onto a DVD, to play through a DVD player onto the television. This was uncharted territory to me. Could it be done? I had no clue, but Steve, the helpful chap in the Southampton Apple store, certainly did. "Of course," he said, "although I usually work with Apple software, I am sure that the Microsoft Powerpoint software can be used with iDVD."

He was right. Now I know that after I finish putting together my presentation in Powerpoint, I can load it onto a DVD in the wonderful iDVD, which came with the Mac and has useful tutorials to help if I get stuck in the future, and it can then be played on a DVD player to watch on a standard TV. Good, eh?

Now all I need to do is finish the presentation!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

To finish the story...

... all is now well with the car. I say this with my fingers crossed behind my back, holding my breath and standing on one leg.

The moral of the tale is always to notice when you have interior lights on, no matter how small. If you don't, you can't go far!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Some things are sent to try us...

... and, oh boy, don't they just?

At the weekend a stone hit the car and chipped the windscreen. Yesterday I called the freecall number to the insurance windscreen glass repairer and made an appointment for the repair to be made at home this afternoon. All good so far.

After I had made the appointment I thought I would take the car out and nip to the post office, the library and run a few domestic errands. This is where the fun started. The steering wheel lock was well and truly on. What's more, it did not want to come off despite my best efforts. I couldn't get out of the drive, let alone go anywhere. I called the local Nissan dealer for advice. 'Try jiggling the key in the ignition and the steering wheel at the same time,' they said. I did so. It remained stubbornly locked. I looked through the handbook. There was no mention of the steering lock. According to Nissan the car hadn't got one. Sigh. I jiggled some more. No, it did not want to play.

I looked through the warranty book that came with the car when we bought it a few months ago. It mentioned the RAC so I looked for the number, secure in the knowledge that we had breakdown cover that came with the car. No number anywhere. I called the dealer thinking I just could not find the number. Guess what? It was an optional extra, not mentioned to us at the time, and we have not got it.

By now I am getting a little cross. I called the insurance company and arranged breakdown cover over the 'phone. 'This takes three days to set up,' the clerk helpfully told me. I fumed. I certainly could not wait for three days for the car to be released. I therefore sat inside and jiggled some more. Over an hour of jiggling and it suddenly released. HURRAH! With my blood pressure considerably raised, off I went on my chores.

This afternoon surfer and PADI Diver Craig turned up from National Windscreen Repairs. I watched,
fascinated, as he drilled and filled the chip. Soon it was good as new. It really is amazing that the windscreen is now stronger than it was before and the mark that the stone left is no more. Fantastic, and really good service from the repair company. Thanks Craig.

Then I tried to start the car. Dead. Craig was still filling out the paperwork and I had jump leads, so we thought that we would push the car out on to the road and connect his van to the Nissan. But, (yes, of course there is always a 'but' in a story like this) the car was too heavy to move. Luckily Michael across the road was just coming home. Soon he was pushing too but this time the car, an automatic, would not go into neutral so we could move it. ARRRRRRGH!

'I have a trickle charger. We could use that,' said Michael. While he went to get it, Craig left for his next job. Bless him, he did not have to help and I am really pleased that he did what he could. Thanks Craig.

Back to the charger. It did not want to work with the battery still on the car and I could not find a spanner to take the battery off. I felt very old. Michael once more came to the rescue by nipping home and coming back with a set of very useful looking tools. As I write the battery is now trickle charging. Fingers crossed it will start the car later on.

Have you ever felt that the odds were against you? That is how I feel these last few days. Yes, things are sent to try us and by golly, they do indeed! I'm just glad that we have good neighbours. My heartfelt thanks to Michael, who has saved the day.