Saturday, August 01, 2020

Stocktaking... from Fenix bay to lockdown Frome

This blog began so many years ago I couldn't remember when, or even why. It turned out to be September 2006, with this rationale: 

It's been a busy summer, and I've been aware that most of what I'm doing never makes it to my website. Maybe it seems like short notice, or local appeal, or I'm not sure where best to post my pictures or commentaries.  So I thought a blog would be a great way of celebrating the wonderful variety of things I'm lucky enough to be doing. I decided I'd give myself a few guidelines, based on Jack Kerouak's 'list of essentials':
Something that will find its own form
Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
                Well, Kerouac had a few more, but that's a start.

First it was random, then publication became more regular and eventually the theme morphed from 'A Writer's World' to a general arts-and-culture overview of life in Frome and surrounds. By now, though my trips and holidays were celebrated briefly, the main emphasis had become Frome-centric - which led, excitingly, to me being commissioned to write an 'alternative history' of the town. Reading the existing histories, excellent though they are, made me determined to shift the emphasis from state and church to the men and women in the streets, and researching for Frome Unzipped, from prehistory to post-punk was a chance for me to hear fascinating tales from people I'd never have otherwise met. 
Looking back at the first years, the posts were cram full of me...  me walking the coastal cliffs of Crete and cycling across Cyprus for commissioned travel articles, me leading writing courses in other lands from Chile to Cambodia and in a diversity of venues including Shepton Mallet prison, me with Annabelle Macfadyen in a silly hat doing outdoor theatre for children, me performing in events from downtown San Fransisco to the top of the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, me & the Liquid Jam poets recording a CD, and me & Hazel Stuart as Live & Lippy making a DVD - thanks to Will Angeloro & Howard Vause! 

So 'my blog' remains a curious hybrid, a feral creature untamed but tolerated, and I've been amazed and delighted to see from the stats that literally thousands of people have dipped in and many even follow it regularly. Posted now virtually weekly, it's never a comprehensive account as the privacy of my family and close friends is always respected, and there's no solicited selling either.  It's still a personal thing, a self-indulgence and a celebration ... and the comments on Facebook are an extra delight. (Thanks David Goodman for thr performance pix.)

Ten years on, the range became less self-centric, with frequent theatre reviews as I was writing regularly for Plays International with several of my plays produced in Bristol as well as working with Rosie 'Nevertheless' Finnegan to put on 'pub theatre' productions in Frome. And since lockdown, Frome is my living world: what's streamed or recorded may find a place but local views, literally, predominate.

Why has this post taken such a retrospective tone? Because it may be my last. The 'new improved' format of Blogger is angled for advertising and sales, and my irrelevant scrapbook is not so easy to create now.  For me, this was primarily writing practice - my 'morning pages' notes and thoughts, semi-edited. I've always recommended this practice to anyone who wants to write for publication - even self-publication: it prevents that tendency to self-indulgence from which most of us suffer.  And it's a way of self-identification as a writer - 'I write, therefore I am', to adapt that Descartian concept which, sadly for our planet, has downgraded any form of life not appearing to 'think' - trees, oceans, insects, all of nature's vitality somehow not 'existing' in any important way... but that's another story. Maybe I'll stick to posting political rants on Facebook now. Thank you for reading. I'll leave you with an entry from fourteen years ago: another musing on the function and purpose of blogs. Maybe this will be my last word, or maybe the last words of it will be the new start.

October -9, 2006
Hazel and I were discussing the function - or do I mean the mystic hypnotic power - of blogs while walking in Longleat yesterday (that's us in the Reclamation Yard after we finished filming Things That Are Weird). She's been blogging for a while, giving the rundown of her training for the big HepC trek in Nepal later this month. I'm interested that writers, on the whole, have been slow to subscribe to this new means communication - I suppose it seems a bit of a busman's holiday, to some, to scrawl on screen without commission or payment. But the current issue of the Journal of the Society of Authors includes a cautious endorsement from 'three authors who blog'. Purposes are varied. Shoo Raynor has used his to mourn the passing of his cat and extol the benefits of giving up milk. For Norman Geras it was the 'fun' aspect that hooked him. The beauty of a blog, he points out, is you can do what you want and you don't have to answer to an editor, or submit to copy-editing either. Tim Heald has another take entirely: the commercial motivation of posting reports that will encourage speaker's agencies to contact him.
I guess there are as many reasons for blogging as for writing anything - Primo Levi whittled that down to 9 but maybe the actual figure is closer to the number of literate humans on the planet - and they're all aspects of the same essential impulse: to yell at a confusing and often indifferent world "I'm here" and to whisper to ourselves "This is me."
               My name is Crysse and I am a blogger...

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Biodynamics, birds, bubbles & boules

Silk Mill Studios provided the artistic masterpiece this week: a lunch box created by Jo Harringon, executive chef of 42 Acres, an ethical retreat near Witham Friary where the land is farmed organically and biodynamically. "It's all about healthy food for a better planet," Jo explains, "Our communities have lost their indigenous knowledge, so we're showing that if we look after the soil then what we harvest will naturally support us. This is all foraged food, wild-tended." The vegan treats in this box include leaves, petals, pollen, and roots, and it really is all delicious.

Moving on to words: Frome Writers Collective continues its presence on Frome FM, with the latest programme here. Rosie Jackson reads from her latest collection of ekphrastic poems, with other poem-inspired pieces, and Gill Harry and I both contributed a lament for this year's cancelled Frome Festival Small Publishers Fair, which starts 31 minutes in - Lisa Kenwright, the show's host, reads mine. The popular 'Writers in Residence' festival event continued by proxy this year - big tribute to the initiative and energy of the organisers and contributors - and one of the winning short stories is read by writer Sian Williams at 40 mins. The international short story contest went ahead too - the results are posted on the website here. Also on local radio, just over the border in West Wiltshire, The Poetry Place this month featured Frome's eco-poet Helen Moore (at 39.20) with Carrie Etter, Dru Marland and Wendy Klein, introduced by Dawn Gorman, organiser and host of Words and Ears poetry events in Bradford on Avon.

John McCullough isn't local, but his poetry collection Reckless Paper Birds, published by Penned in the Margins, is nominated for a Costa Award and his generous and honest post in response is worth quoting: 'Poetry is a craft and like any craft it takes thousands of hours of quiet honing. There's no way around this. Try to enjoy the journey of discovering new writers who reshape the way you see the world and each little breakthrough as you refine your editing strategies.'
Poets Prattlers and Pandemonialists experimented with a poetry night on their email address here where the contributions will remain available until July 28th.

And a re-recommendation of Brain Pickings, a beautifully presented blog which always has much to offer, which in this edition brims with tributes to trees from Robert Macfarlane, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, and DH Lawrence meditating on the message of the cypresses in Tuscany:
'As in clairvoyance he perceived it: that our life is only a fragment of the shell of life.  In the dark, mindful silence and inflection of the cypress trees, lost races, lost language, lost human ways of feeling and of knowing. Men have known as we can no more know, have felt as we can no more feel. Great life-realities gone into the darkness. But the cypresses commemorate.'
Ending now, with Birthday Blogger's Permitted Egoism, with my personal celebrations which somehow took over the week as the rules we now live by prohibit a massive one-off celebration so the last few days were a series of small delights, concluding on Sunday with a rainstorm festival and boules in Victoria park with my family - after a handover of 9 more copies of The Price Of Bread to a book group. I'm really happy with the way sales are going, and with the feedback too - there's a superb review from author & broadcaster Suzy Howlett here, & on my facebook page too.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Bumper music week! from Mozart to Oasis, and a reason for hope.

Amadeus this week concludes the National Theatre's summer season of streamed classics, and made a fitting finale. Being anhedonic where opera is concerned, that meant mainly a Falco song to me but the nearly-three hours of this 2018 production were sensationally gripping. For any other ignorami, Peter Shaffer's play is an epic tale of obsession in 18th Century Vienna as young Mozart's genius arouses the jealous rage of the court composer, who sets about ruining his career. Lucian Msamati is strong as envious Salieri, Adam Gillen plays Mozart as a cross between Vyvyen from The Young Ones and a Beatrix Potter squirrel. Mrs Mozart, the very pretty Karla Crome, was my other favourite, and also the dim Emperor Joseph II who apparently had even less musical appreciation than me.  Showing till 7pm July 23rd. 

Hunting Raven Bookshop has not only re-opened in real-place but is also maintaining a strong online presence, as Tina Gaisford-Waller takes to the screen to promote some of her most fascinating new releases with zoom meetings. Friday's session featured The Compassion Project, with a talk from Dr Julian Abel the Director of Compassionate Communities UK who, with Frome writer Lyndsay Clarke, wrote this 'true story of the town that beat loneliness.' Frome is immensely lucky to have moved in this direction through various initiatives and practices and the town's medical team led by Helen Kingston is a national leader in innovative health care. A fascinating session, as Julian explained how mutual compassion, rather than 'survival of the fittest', has always been deep in mankind's social psyche, and discussion also looked at experiences among indigenous peoples of Canada, and communities in Mexico and Columbia.

Music now, as one of Frome's most active bands returned to live performance - but first quick look at online guitarists. Tuesday offered an hour from the very entertaining Boothby Graffoe - his brilliant parody of our government can be enjoyed here - and  Thursday's unexpected find was Belfast lad David Browne Murray who plays sensationally well.
Also on Thursday: Young Somerset hosted a session in their series Bert Jansch 80 Plays around the world - gigs to raise funds for the Music Venue Trust. Back in the '60s, I saw Bert Jansch with John Renbourn at an all-nighter in London, and emerged blinking into the early morning sunlight to be met by a bizarre lady pushing a trolleyful of carrier bags which, she told us cheerily, held all her possessions as she lived on the street. (Ralph McTell also met her later in the decade, and wrote a song about her.)  It seemed extraordinary in 20th Century, wealthy, England... with more than 25,000 homeless now, that encounter in Leicester Square seems from another, much nicer, world. Anyway, here's a link to the original Angie.
 And now the exciting live reveal!
 Paul Kirtley's current talented 'Bones' crew ('crew' seems a more appropriate than 'band' as they never have a set plan or rehearse, and personnel vary) put on a brilliant show for the outdoor diners at Rode Mill on Saturday afternoon. Social distancing - immaculately established by owner John and maintained by soundman Steve - didn't impede the barbecue or bar, and the session developed into a request set with dancing by early evening.

The lawns around this lovely old restaurant are perfect for picnics, too, with the river curling round them.

Returning summer sunshine has allowed more long walks again: from the southern meadows right along the reclaimed river path through Frome town, and beyond to the northern fields - there's a crop circle in one - with bursts of woodland and masses of wild flowers. Other routes like Vallis Vale and Nunney Brook, are within striding distance of my house too, and after so many discoveries it's a mystery now how there was ever time to organise any events and why I ever wanted to travel anywhere else...

Meanwhile my house waits patiently for the promised springclean - so I gave it some lilies instead, from Stuart's stall in the market place (which is now inaccessible due to road changes by the way. )

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Drama, poetry and other words as summer returns

Drama first: The National Theatre continues its stream season of major dramas with Terence Rattigan's classic The Deep Blue Sea, an emotional saga of misplaced passion in post-war England. Here's Helen McCrory, frustrated, neurotic, and exquisitely lovely even when suicidal - which is most of the play. She has left her husband (Peter Sullivan, frankly too attractive for this role) for a semi-alcoholic ex-test pilot with whom she remains bafflingly besotted despite the fact he's inattentive, boorish and a bit overweight. There's a mysterious struck-off doctor who floats in like tumbleweed and a couple of parody middle-class lodgers.  Rattigan is still highly rated as was this production, so perhaps lockdown's made me tetchy about live production having a need to be either entertaining, amusing, or relevant.

Love You and Hate Covid by Jonny and the Baptists is live-streamed from various arts centres: I watched it from Wiltshire's Pound Arts Centre in Corsham which turned out not the best choice as camera fail meant the whole show was filmed from a single distant viewpoint so it looked like you were peeking in from the foyer. I first saw this duo three years ago in their savage satiric drama Eat the Poor, which I raved about, and although their hearts are still in the right place ("You're either against capitalism or you're for the end of the world" says Jonny) they seem to have settled for a more unstructured, less seethingly indignant, format of basically just songs.

Another focus on our system's inequality, more focussed, incisive and funny, from Mark Thomas on Thursday evening: Serious Organised Criminal follows his 2007 live show by an update since this serious -funnyman started his campaign against the 2004 law to stop any kind of presence, however small or bland the message, without prior permission by the police -an Act of Parliament passed specifically to prevent Brian Haw from standing quietly outside the Houses of Parliament where he had for three years held a one-man anti-war protest. Mark, like many others outraged that any kind of public opinion had at a stroke become a criminal act - 'so kendal-mint-cake eating ramblers are now on the same footing as Al-Qaeda' - decided to challenge this nonsensical injustice.
The filmed show tells the full story, involving absurd existential complaints each of which, after a raft of paperwork, was permitted to be displayed in public gaze, with the real protest aimed at the control of legitimate freedom. The movement swelled, Mark became good friends with the officer in charge and gained an international following. After a quick break, Mark in real time discussed events since, including his McDemos scheme to continue this patient non-violent policy of ridiculing the illegitimate control of free speech. 'It's a challenge to this legislation that makes US accountable to THEM - in a democracy, this should be the other way round,' Mark concludes, and despite the nuisance he causes, many in the police force agree.  Not just a funny man from South London, a serious game-changer in a game that seriously needs changing.

We're still all madly missing live music but Sofar Sounds offers an international selection of concerts and Cooper Hall in Frome is posting links to a series of their past performers - this link is to Hattie Briggs
Frome's living legend Liv Torc continues a beacon of relevance, as her Haiflu project hit BBC4's Today programme - ff to 1.42 to hear Liv explain the concept, summed up in her own haiku: And nothing makes sense - but in telling the story- we learn who we are.
Frome Festival Poetry Cafe has endeavoured to keep a presence by images of previous Festival Laureate winners on our Facebook page. And Luke Wright is still sharing his poems on Twitter - Sunday night's session is number 102 - for those who enjoy being invisible observers at online sessions. He's very good.
And for me, the lockdown launch of The Price of Bread continues to be major event. The second boxful is now more than half dispatched to new owners, with some gratifyingly appreciative reviews already received - here's me doing a socially-distanced bookswap with Liz Hutchinson, whose historical novel Dissenters, set in Frome, is also published by Hobnob. My novel is set in Belfast, and as the 12th July - big date in Ulster's calendar - approaches, it's sad to see this story of the 'Troubles' fifty years ago is still so relevant, with banned bonfires already blazing in Belfast.

Finally apologies to anyone trying to follow this blog on their phone - I realise it may look a mess. My system does now offer an alternative format which is promised to look less muddled on mobiles but it is inflexibly maddening for originating so I've joined the number of disgruntled users who've asked to return to the old way... sorry.  I'll end with an image from a walk just over the border from Frome - here's hoping you're all enjoy the returning summer sunshine.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

A midsummer medley: drama poetry & art, filling the festival void.

My online theatre choice for this week was Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry, an unmitigatedly grim, horribly relevant, 2016 production from National Theatre - it's free to view till July 9th, if you can face a 'brave, illuminating and powerful work that confronts the hope and tragedy of revolution'.
Set in an African country struggling to self-liberate from its colonial past, the polemic is mingled with mystical elements. Tshembe was played by Danny Sapiani, Yaƫl Farber directed.

Poetry corner now: Bristol's David C Johnson joined singer-songwriter Beth Ford for Love and Life online, this theme interpreted broadly enough to include poems ranging from the identity problems of bees to railways, and David's excellent response to the dunking of Colston in Bristol harbour: 'A Quick Dip for Edward.'
Still with poetry, Steve Pottinger, who brought his performance group Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists to Frome in 2018 to great acclaim, hosts the online poetry event YeS, WE CaNt which on Sunday featured the marvellous, totally bonkers, Felix Bang. Check out this rant about how girls shoes really really really really suck, from the collection Brillo Kiddo, 'that has a look at all the big and important cardboard boxes in my life.' There were several stand-out poems on the open-mic, presented via you-tube and sound-cloud as well as online text - I liked Gerald Kells deceptively profound 'Chrysalis' - in this varied event.

This is the week when many in Frome would be gearing themselves up for festival week, maybe returning from Glastonbury in full summer festival mood, or fine-tuning the previous weeks of preparation... my personal events, the Poetry Cafe, Nevertheless Pub Theatre and the literary & historical walks, like the rest of the programme are on hold until 2021 but the Frome Festival organising team won't let us forget our town's crowning arts event entirely. And on Tuesday we enjoyed an online Frome Festival Quiz, hosted by genial question-master Roger Southard.

The festival's visual art element has survived, catalogued in the Virtual Art Trail, and some studios are now accessible: check this link:;Open Art Trail-Outer. And for the official opening night, Festival director and musical performer Martin Dimery joined with Cooper Hall's creative director and vibrant songstress Morag McLaren to remind us that We'll meet again... click the link for a medley of witty parodies to remind us of the local talent always a favourite feature of the festival.

And now we move offline for live art event!
As the doors of the town cautiously open again, photographer Mark Brookes has a month-long exhibition at Fromie Gifts. Mark is noted for his reportage monochromes, and an impressive set of his Extinction Rebellion imagery contrasts powerfully with several large, subtly coloured, artistic poses with added words from Frome poet  'B' - this one features a mask by Gladys Paulus.

Still with personal journeys into creativity exposed to the world: massive excitement for me this week, with the arrival of a box of books fresh from the printers: The Price of Bread, my novel set in Belfast in the last Troubles, with a cover illustration by Frome artist Mutartis Boswell  - it looks fabulous and, thrillingly, all copies from this delivery were snapped up within twelve hours.
Another box will arrive early next week, half of which are already pledged, but there are still copies at Hunting Raven Books, as wonderful manager Tina 'Best in the Southwest' Gaisford-Waller grabbed me for a socially-distanced signing session as I passed by the bookshop door.
Supportive promotion also came from Frome Writers Collective: Gill Harry took this pic when I joined her to commiserate over the cancellation of the Small Publishers Fair, always on the first Saturday of the festival, filling the Silk Mill with buyers & sellers, readers & writers, publishers, promoters & purchasers and every sort of bibliophile. Next year, eh, guys....

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Dreaming of midsummer and after...

And now, for anyone missing the Midsummer Night's Dream theme thriving in early June, there's another version of the streamed-theatre's favourite play: this one from National Theatre at The Bridge, and the most exciting, innovative, and enjoyable of the three. Much of the delight in this interpretation came from the unusual way the two sets of rulers, mortal and fairy, are merged: this is the usual policy in casting, for dramatic reasons as well as convenience, since the conflicts of both royal couples echo each other, but the master-stroke in this production is the reversal of the storylines for Titania and Oberon: not only is it irresistibly funny to see the besotted fairy king sharing a bubblebath with Bottom the ass, but this 'taming' of a domineering lord by his angry lady also works better for relationship between Theseus and Hippolyta. There's witty, but not over-milked, impro among the 'mechanicals', there's trapeze swinging for the fairies, audience involvement, and the soundtrack - from Beyonce, Florence & the Machine and Dizzee Rascal to the London Symphony Orchestra - is great. Nick Hytner directing this 2019 production emphasises the 'dream' aspect of the story and makes sense of the extremes of emotion in the forest by a set with floating beds as the four lovers imagine their own passions becoming confused - it's odd, but it works.

When Luke Wright's solo poetry-play What I learned from Johnny Bevan was staged in 2016 it won awards for both writing and performance and was hailed by critics as a 'blistering story of our times.' Back then, Rosie Finnegan - the inspiration behind our co-directed pub theatre production company Nevertheless - joined me in  Soho Theatre to see this powerful personal parable of hope and political disillusion and we were both overawed by the combination of drama, poetry, and polemic. Applauded at the time for its questioning of the developing values of both the main UK parties, four years on Luke's online revival is even more pertinent, and his intimate, informal, performance on Wednesday lost none of the impact.  (And Luke still looks like he'd get questioned trying to buy alcohol... an enviable problem. )

Liv Tork's inspirational weekly posting of haiflu - haiku sent to her from round the country and beyond, to chronicle lockdown - is now compiled into a 40 minute film of still shots - all poignant, not all sombre, some breathtakingly moving. The photographs paired with them are superb and stunningly well chosen - this really is an amazing pulse-beat record of this summer.
And in other word-related news: The enterprising team at Frome Writers Collective have managed to fulfil one popular Frome Festival feature despite lockdown, by organising their annual Writers in Residence contest as an 'At Home Challenge', within the usual time constraint between receiving the title and handing in the finished piece. Prizes and zoom presentation will be on July 11th. And for those missing live readings: The Poetry Place on West Wilts Radio, hosted by Dawn Gorman with Peter O'Grady, offers recorded shows featuring guest poets - Frome's Claire Crowther is one - available on 'Play Again' here. This month's show on Sunday had an excellent quartet of guests including eco-poet Helen Moore.  If you have poems of your own you'd like to share and are mourning the cancellation of the July Poetry Cafe (postponed, like the rest of the Frome Festival programme in entirety, until 2021) then do consider posting your piece on the Frome Poetry Cafe page - not as much fun as seeing the audience's faces, but you can add an image and your words will be preserved! (but don't do this if you plan to submit for publication,obvs.)   Prose workshops from Story Friday organiser and skilled practitioner Clare Reddaway are running online throughout July - contact her for dates - and, still loosely on a theme of story-telling, if you missed the social history show Three Acres and a Cow (as sadly I did, though I have seen this excellent show live) then do dip into their resources - a salutary story still hugely relevant today.

Little to say about music... you've probably all got your favourite sites and connections, and if not just put on the tele for Glastonbury (very tactful of the weather to provide rain this weekend to console us to this loss) where, from a 2017 set by Frome's most famous fans the Foo Fighters to a documentary  on the history of the John Peel stage, you can enjoy the whole experience barring the aromas and the merch. Enjoy the slowly ebbing summer, everyone!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Dreams dramatically dashed - words, spoken & writ - it's another lockdown medley

Small Island, the National Theatre production staged last year, is an especially timely offering for streamed viewing, not just as a shaming reminder of recent treatment of families of those 'Sons of the Empire' lured to post-war Britain, but also with the current spate of retrospective sensitivity about historical terminology: as the producers put it "Please note that, as part of depicting the experience of Jamaican immigrants to Britain after the Second World War, some characters in the play use racially offensive terms."  Andrea Levy based her 2004 novel on her own experience of growing up in London as the child of Jamaican immigrants: it won several major book prizes and was picked by The Guardian in 2009 as one of the defining books of the decade As in the book, the action of the play moves across two continents, and the minimal set changes plus effective lighting effectively convey Hortense's culture-shock as she relocates from a sunny small island where she could consider herself both British and middle-class to a chilly, damp, small-minded island bereft of respect for her qualities and seeing only her skin. Online till 25th June, well worth watching.

And there was another dream of midsummer magic at the Globe this week, with a 2013 production directed by Dominic Dromgool three years before the Emma Rice extravaganza reported in my last post: a more traditional version of Shakespeare's drama with the fairies a darkly ominous presence in a world where mortals, both noble and lower class do all be fools in their desires and their passions.
Renaissance costumes and more traditional staging both work well for this interpretation,  the adolescent immaturity of the lovers explaining their passionate tempers, and the merging  between the mortal and fairy overlords also fits this interpretation of the drama. Matthew Tennyson plays Puck as a wayward and dysfunctional teenager - he won an award as 'best newcomer' - and the mechanicals adlib, mess about, and shove the chaos of their 'Pyramus and Thisbe' play to the limits of absurdity.  The audience clearly loved it all. These streamed shows have definitely made me avid to book live tickets for Globe's pit as soon as it's permissible.

Poetry corner again features Liv Torc, this time as hostess of the Take Art supported Rainbow Fish Speakeasy sessions - the next one in September will presumably be back in Yeovil, so this has been another zoom benefit for me.
Crammed with great contributions, this featured a totally brilliant headline set from Bristol rapper Dizraeli who introduced us to city characters like John the Baptist and Ben who sleeps under the railway bridge. Other poems ranged from powerful reflections on current issues to Mary Dickens' list poem 'I am returning this item...' compiling suggestions she felt more useful than the usual options, and the event ended with an audience-inspired poem entitled The cake of human kindness - congratulations deserved by all.

And my personal congratulations to John Chandler of Hobnob Press for lightning-fast turnaround of my error-strewn pdf into a proper-looking proof copy of The Price of Bread - already in his listings and pictured here in my hands, in John's very smart cover design featuring art work by Frome's marvellous Mutartis Boswell. If you dipped into this blog at the end of May you will have seen the image already, rather more clearly, and if all goes well for me, it will probably feature here again...

In the meantime, back from 1970s Belfast to 2020's Somerset summer glory: walks through fields of ripening corn and along river banks where bees and butterflies this year are abundant - one of pleasanter outcomes of lockdown.

Stay well, y'all.