The NHS is 70 years old today, something we should all be very proud of. I’ve been fortunate to only have a few dealings with the NHS over the years and, apart from one over-enthusiastic nurse and an errant needle, I’ve been very pleased with the level of service and care received. My father was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys in the early 90’s and was hospitalised at one point when he was in considerable pain and passing blood in his urine. The staff, from the paramedics that delivered him to A & E to the consultants that identified the problem, were incredible, especially considering the filthy jokes my dad insisted on telling anyone who got too close to his bed – a side effect of the pain relief, that’s a lack of inhibitions, not the need to tell filthy jokes. My dad continued to have problems with his kidneys and eventually had dialysis and finally a transplant that continues to function perfectly to this day. More recently, my dad, again, was rushed to the hospital. This time it was because an idiot in his 30’s tried to impress his girlfriend by completing a sudden U-turn on a blind corner. My dad promptly drove his motorbike into the side of the car. Luckily my dad only suffered severe bruising, cuts and grazes, and the loss of his prized motorcycling jacket which the paramedics had to cut off of him and the motorcycle he wore it on. Once again the treatment he received was world-class and free. Let’s hold that thought for a minute, free. Our Health Service is free at the point of use. Yes, we pay for our care, and the care of others, through National Insurance contributions, but when we are treated there is no charge. The staff that deal with us are underpaid and overworked and yet they, on the whole, deliver an incredible service. There is nowhere else in the world where this happens. We all have stories like mine. There’s not one family in the UK that hasn’t been touched by the NHS. We should all feel proud of this incredible organisation and, along with birthday greetings, give the NHS as much support as we possibly can. After all, there are people out there, I’m looking at you the Tory Party, Richard Branson, Big Business etc. that want to dismantle it for financial gain. With all this very much in mind, Gruff Rhys has recorded, No Profit In Pain, a love letter to the NHS that calls on us all to fight to preserve it. Listen to the track, hug a nurse, hassle your MP, but above all SAVE OUR NHS.https://youtu.be/P_NWu6S1pYc
I feel very honoured to have played a small part in the short but dazzling life of Splinter Magazine.
Andy Winter, as part of his new site, lays out the fun, sweat and tears that were integral to its inception and subsequent issues. Andy and the backroom team worked their sweaty little balls off every month to get a rather wonderful, scathing, joyous, flawed magazine out most months. I fear that the majority of poor spelling and grammar was down to yours truly, but by Lemmy’s mole it was a wonderful, terrifying, possibly illegal, crazy time.
Huge thanks to Andy for taking me on and putting in the hours and mentioning me in such glowing terms in this piece. God, I miss those days. Hopefully, those that I offended have since received the medical support that they so desperately needed.
Check out Andy’s retelling of those heady days in the 90’s on his new site that covers comics, film, podcasts and a whole host of stuff. Just click here.
For those of you who are of a creative or aquatic bent, you may be interested to know that I will once again be leading canal based creative writing workshops. Those crazy fools at the Birmingham Literature Festival have asked me to lead dusk till dawn writing sessions as part of this year’s festival.
I don’t have a lot of details yet, but I guess that they will be similar to the ones I ran back in April as part of the pop-up festival. Back then, we started from Birmingham’s historic Roundhouse and explored the canals via canoe and kayak. It was a real eye-opener for me. There are parts of the city you can only explore from the canal. Deserted glassworks, industrial loading bays and the Victorian red brick of disused warehouses stand beside the canal, and their decaying shells now home a multitude of wildlife and their walls canvases for graffiti artists and frustrated lovers.
We will spend at least an hour on the water and then back inside the relative, although not guaranteed, warmth of the Roundhouse I’ll put you through your paces with some short, focused writing exercises that will nudge you towards creating longer pieces of work.
Paddling and writing along Birmingham’s canals
Ever thought of combining canoeing and writing? Well, now’s your chance. On April 23rd, Jo Bell (poet,) Alyse Fowler (gardener/writer,) and I will be doing just that. We’ll be taking groups down the industrial canals of Birmingham and using this unique perspective to inspire creative writing. Check out the press release below for full details and booking info:
£20/£16 (concessions), children £10
Need some inspiration to get writing? Want to explore hidden Birmingham?
Look no further than our series of creative walks, bike rides and canoe trips developed in partnership with the Canal & River Trust, National Trust, Birmingham Roundhouse, British Canoeing and Big Birmingham Bikes, and delivered by five fantastic writers.
Take to the waterways of Birmingham by canoe for a unique perspective on the city, returning to dry land for a writing workshop at The Roundhouse led by Alys Fowler (10am-1pm) or Jo Bell (2pm-5pm). Workshops for young people at both sessions will be led by Garrie Fletcher. Canoes and instruction supplied free of charge from British Canoeing and B-ROW.
Please dress comfortably: we advise that you don’t wear jeans, you do wear trainers, bring waterproof coat and trousers, and a complete change of clothes. The canoes have a weight restriction of 17.5 stone.
Drinks are provided free of charge but please bring a snack to sustain you.
Suitable for adults and children aged 8 and over. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Workshop 1 – 10am – 1pm (Alys Fowler)
Workshop 2 – 2pm – 5pm (Jo Bell)
Jo Bell is a former Canal Poet Laureate and currently appears on Nationwide’s ‘Voice of the People’ ads. Her poetry collection Kith is published by Nine Arches Press. She is co-writing a handbook for poets – How to be a Poet – and lives on a narrowboat.
Alys Fowler is an award-winning journalist, regular presenter of BBC Gardeners’ World and Guardian columnist. Her new book Hidden Nature charts her journey through the canals of Birmingham by canoe.
Garrie Fletcher writes short stories, novels and poems. His collection of short stories, Night Swimming, has just been published by Mantle Lane Press. He leads the Birmingham Young Writers’ Group for Writing West Midlands.
How to Book:
Please contact The BOX to book tickets on 0121 245 4455 or you can book online by clicking the button below.
Last Saturday, we launched Night Swimming, at the ‘book festival in a day,’ States of Independence. When I say we, I mean Matthew Pegg – a marvellous and industrious human being – introduced it, and I read a brief extract from one of the stories.
Matthew did a top rate job taking about Mantle Lane Press and the three collections that are out now, including, Night Swimming. My reading went really well; there was a great reaction from those there and a posting of purchases on Twitter soon after.
Night Swimming is:
“A collection of dark, urban tales: the pros and cons of stealing a pensioner, a mothers prison visit, incipient love and roller skating, the guilt of a brothers death, and a past love burnt out by rioting. Stories that deal with loss, longing and hope.
Garrie Fletcher writes about the gaps between lives, the pauses between stations and the static hiss of the city. The moments he captures are fleeting and easily missed, but resonate like a steel string plucked above a pickup, distorted and electric.
Mantle Lane Press small books can be slipped into a pocket and make an ideal stocking filler for literature lovers. ”
To get your hands on a copy of this beautiful book just click here. You can also order it from your local bookshop, or if you’re local, to me, get in touch, and I can get a signed copy to you.
My first collection of short stories, Night Swimming, is almost here. It’s still not really sunk in. But on Saturday, March the 11th, I will finally hold a copy in my hands – that should do the trick.
To be able to look at the cover of my book and flick through the pages, pages covered with words that I typed, deleted, retyped, crossed out, scribbled over and screamed at should fill me with joy, or at least a deep sense of satisfaction.
However, this isn’t ‘job done.’ Now starts the long process of promotion, of convincing people to buy my book. The first step, along the road of self-promotion, will be taken on Saturday at this year’s States of Independence in Leicester. I will be reading a short extract from, Night Swimming, as part of the Mantle Lane Press launch. I’ve read my work at many events over the years, but this will be the first time that I’ve had a ‘product’ to promote. At the moment, I’m reading through the stories and trying to decide which one will tantalise the most and leave an audience wanting more.
If you’re in Leicester, or fancy a day out there, please come along to States of Independence. Here’s some info and details from their website:
States of Independence
Independent publishing | Independent writing | Independent thinking
A book festival in a day
This year’s States of Independence is our eighth. It’s a book festival in a day, a marketplace, a conference, a chance to relax and listen to some readings, an opportunity to argue about issues in the industry and to meet with independent presses from across the region.
States of Independence supports independent thinking, independent writing and independent presses. Join us for the day or an hour. Attend lots of events – you will be spoiled for choice – or just one, or simply come along and browse through the twenty or so bookstalls to see what the independent sector is publishing.
As always there are poetry and fiction readings and industry panels discussing current hot topics – this year focusing on independent literary magazines. Non-fiction wanders from British Palestine to John Clare’s escape from an asylum, via the political power of music, reminiscences about being gay in the 80s, and how to talk about poetry
States of Independence is a free event, underwritten by Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham and the Centre for Creative Writing at De Montfort University, with the support of over fifty writers and over thirty presses.
All sessions are free, no tickets required.
Just turn up and stay for an hour or two, or the whole day.
States of Independence is organised and funded by Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham and the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Book Cover Uncovered
Those wonderful people at Mantle Lane Press have chosen and they have chosen well. The artwork for my forthcoming collection of short stories, Night Swimming, will be provided by Gabriella Marsh. Here’s a text free glimpse of what’s to come.
The Tindal Street Fiction Group have been mighty busy:
Stories accepted: Alan Beard has a story ‘November’ forthcoming in Spelk – in November. Sooner than that, Charles Wilkinson has a story coming out in the next issue of Black Stati…
Source: Summer round up
Hi web dwellers,
On Sunday, September the 11th, 2016, I will be taking part in the Memory Walk at Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society and in memory of the lady below.
This is a first: a post that has nothing to do with writing, creativity, art or politics. I’d like your attention for a few minutes to highlight a cause that means a lot to me: The Alzheimer’s Society. These guys do a huge amount of valuable work for people and families who are coping with dementia.
The stunner above, with the film star looks, was my Nan, (Nan is a term that some of us Brits use for Grandmother.) I never knew her when she looked like this, but the picture gives a hint of the fiery, cantankerous, strong willed woman that fed and spoilt me when I was growing up.
She died a few years ago, but we lost her long before that to dementia. My mother became her carer and had to watch first-hand as the woman she knew and loved slipped away. Eventually, it was too difficult to care for her at home and she had to go into a home. This was a very difficult decision for all involved.
The Alzheimer’s Society help many people like my Nan, but they rely upon donations from the public to do so. Please give what you can by clicking on the link below and help the Alzheimer’s Society to continue to do the essential work that they do.
Huge thanks to you all for reading.
I’m doing a bit of research; maybe you can help? I’m looking at jobs, different types of work, work I’ve not done before, stuff that’s unusual and usual. I’d like to shadow you while you work – this isn’t as creepy as it sounds it just means seeing how you do your job and what your job entails. The shadowing could last an hour, half a day, a whole day whatever’s best for you. I could even lend a hand if that’s permissible/possible – I won’t expect to sit in on any brain surgery though.
Please share this amongst your friends, followers, stalkers and if you are interested in having an affable writer scribble down some notes while you work then direct message me. For practical reasons, the work must be based in Birmingham unless it’s something unmissable, exotic, bizarre, rare, etc.