Long-eared owl scolds Short-eared owl:


Short-eared owl warns:

“I’m not only short-eared.  I’m short-tempered.”

Tawny owl murmurs: “How cute am I …”

Barn owl whispers: “I’m so shy, I won’t let anyone take my picture.”

Tawny owl wails: “I’ve been framed!”

Owling heard on Monday 27th November during the exhibition of Peter Barrett’s new paintings in Hemyock.  Thanks to Dean, Sally, Olivia and Rufus.

A quick preview of Peter Barrett’s exhibition Nov 24th – 28th


Visit The Garages, Millhayes, Hemyock, Devon to see Peter’s latest paintings.  Here’s a glimpse of what will be on view, Friday November 24th to Monday 27th, closing on 28th.  9.30 am – 6.30  pm daily.

Prices on request.

Stone circle, near Merrivale, oil on canvas 50 cm x 70cm

Winter sun on sea, near Branscombe, watercolour 38 x 54

Scots pines, watercolour, 54 x 48 cm

West Dart river, near Huccaby Bridge, oil on canvas, 78 x 90

Yar Tor, rain and sun, oil on canvas, 81 x 112 cm

separate pictures, oil on board, 24 x 24 cm each

top left: Blackcap.  Top right: Kingfisher

bottom left: Goldfinches.  Bottom right: Song thrush

Pictures at an exhibition

The subject heading came easily to mind, thanks to Mussorgksy.  But this post isn’t about music.  It’s to advertise Peter Barrett’s exhibition to be held at The Garages, Hemyock, Devon, November 24th – 28th, 9.30 – 6.30 daily.  I’ve put a selection of the pictures which will be on show on his page:  Peter Barrett

It seems daft to advertise such a local event on a website that can be reached from anywhere in the world — but never mind that.    For years I’ve been meaning to develop a site for Peter’s artwork which can act like a stall at a fair if I also link it to some payment system like Paypal.    Perhaps that will be my next project after The Garden of The Grandfather, and the novel, “Greek Gold” I shelved to work on that book about life in Greece in the 1960s.   One thing at a time.  And the one thing at the moment is making sure that the pictures at the exhibition have titles.

The one I’ve included in this post is one of my favourites Pencross Spring lane, oil on canvas, 41 x 51.  

Changing from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

I feel as though I’ve taken part in an obstacle race.  The first big hurdle was to decide whether to take my desktop to my computer doctor for a thorough wash and brush up.  Then when he described all he could do on it, at cost of time and money, I decided to ditch that box and processor and start again.  The stuff  – not just the depth of dust in the keyboard, but the depth of data gathered in the computer-  was startling.  Miraculously, Doctor Dave saved the lot accumulated since 2009.  There’s no need to throw anything away.  It may come in!

Anyrate, within two days, I’ve gone from despair to joy, tinged with slight trepidation at learning a new rigmarole.  Keyboard feels wonderfully smooth and quick; it’s sparkling new and dust-free.  For the moment ….

How do writers maintain morale?

A good level of morale is essential, I find, for writing.   It’s like petrol in an engine.  It fuels the hope, if not belief, that what I write will be read by more people than just my husband (he has to) and a few friends (depending on their good will).  When morale drops, I sink into a “what’s the point?”  attitude.  Then I have to re-fuel with memories of previous successes.

A car we’d bought secondhand in Stuttgart in 1962 had no fuel gauge.  When the tank was empty, you could flick a switch on the floor of the car to get petrol to flow from a reserve tank.  That would, if you were lucky, get you to the next garage.

In my writing life, I’ve frequently had recourse to my reserve supply of morale.  This morning I’m hovering near that floorboard switch.  Will our second book on Greece ever see light of day?  Will I get a positive reply from one of the many agents and publishers I’m approaching?   Fifty years after my career began, I am back where I started – without an agent.

If I link this post to LinkedIn, will it be read by a literary agent?  There must be one or two out there who would like to be involved with “Life in Greece in the 1960s”.




Preview opportunity – follow links

Below, I’ve put a couple of links to the first couple of trial spreads for The Garden of The Grandfather.  I’d like to be able to reproduce PDF files on the site,  but I haven’t yet discovered the way to do that.

In the time it takes to fiddle with these things, I could have finished writing the book by now, and saved myself many extra white hairs.

Intro, The Garden

spread 2, The Garden

Dickens didn’t work hand-in-hand, chapter by chapter, with his illustrator

I decided to have a page on this site with work in progress.  The book in question is The Garden of The Grandfather.  When I started – and isn’t this always the way – I didn’t realise quite how difficult it would be to write in public.  I imagined it would be like writing instalments of a novel which could easily be polished up once I’d reached the end.  I was thinking of the Victorians, particularly Dickens, who wrote his chapters fast and fluently  to meet magazine deadlines.  What a huge number of chapters he wrote, too!  But, apart from his talent and ability to write at speed, he didn’t have to think of, or allow for and dovetail with, the shape, layout and illustrations.  A heavily illustrated non-fiction book takes a different kind of thought; a much slower process than writing fiction, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Another difficulty in writing in full view of your audience, as it were, was my way of writing, which is constant revision.  I cannot re-read a paragraph without fiddling with it.  How anyone managed before typewriters, I cannot imagine.  Now word-processing makes it so easy to fiddle.  Perhaps we’ve lost the composition skills of earlier generations who wrote with quill pens and got it right first time.  Or were their wastepaper baskets full of ink-splattered scratchings out?  Come to think of it, I wrote my first six novels on a typewriter – and I didn’t use that much paper.  I conclude I’ve grown less able to get the sentences right with my first shot.

Despite difficulties and a fornight of thrashing around with Peter, deciding the relationship and proportions of illustration to text, I feel I’ve reached a good halfway stage in the book.  From here onwards, it will be easier to know where I’m going, and approximately how many pages it will take to get there, and whether we’ll have done our life in Greece justice.

A new writing experiment

Aged 18, I decided that the first step on the way to becoming a writer was to learn how to type.  So I did a secretarial course at Plymouth Technical College.  We sat in rows in front of the epitome of a perfect secretary (grey-haired, retired and precise) and clacked away on tall and ancient typewriters.  Each machine resembled the auditorium of a theatre in miniature: 1234567890-+~ in the Upper Circle, down the rows to \zxcvbnm,./ in the front row of the stalls.   Clickety clack clack, at increasing speeds over the months, punctuated with the satisfying ding! at the end of lines, signalling the need to push the lever on the left to make the paper roll up a notch on the cylinder.  Who remembers this?

Typing was easier to learn than shorthand.  But the puzzles of shorthand held one compensation.    There were wonderful letters in the book of exercises: polite but pained requests for attention, addressed to clearly recalcitrant Dear Sirs, referring to orders not fulfilled.   The writers awaited the dear sirs’ earliest attention.   I found that, even when I couldn’t read my squiggles, I was able to compose a letter from memory.  This served me well when I was taking dictation from one of the editors of Thames and Hudson.  “Did I really say that?” he would sometimes ask, with a quizzical eyebrow raised.

Unlike shorthand which I’ve never since used, the ability to type fast without looking at the keyboard has stood me in good stead.  Even if I don’t need to glance at it, I find a keyboard is still vital for getting words from the brain onto paper via a screen.  I cannot abide the virtual variety on smartphones and tablets.  I watch with amazed admiration people who can hold a phone and pump out messages, using their thumbs like manic grasshoppers.

Although I’m not at home with phones, I’ve kept up with the developments in typing.  In the mid 1980s I invested in something called a Screenwriter, which was a Rolls Royce of a typewriter which had basic word-processing capability built in.  I found it useful for writing the text of the book Peter and I did together about the landscapes, flora and fauna of Greece.

Then came the Amstrad.  In my memory it sits on my desk in our house in Papingo, north western Greece, looking like a squat, extra-terrestrial creature, blinking green messages from a screen the colour of butterscotch.   During the 1990s, my writing tools became more sophisticated as computers developed.   I’ve written on a series of desktop computers, as well as laptops taken to New Zealand and France.

My present desktop I’ve had for many years.  Its box – tall and black – hums beside me, holding a labyrinthine memory of all my wild goose-chases.  It’s recorded everything I’ve written since the 21st century began.  I rarely bother to back things up.  I print out any work I would hate to lose.   Now I’m experimenting with a new way of writing in parallel with the old way.  Each time I complete a section I print it out.  I also copy and paste that section onto a page on my website.   The text of my present book – The Garden of The Grandfather – is mounting up on a Page of that name on my site.  As yet, I’m not sure how this will work out.

I can see the dangers.  It is a first draft, so perhaps it shouldn’t be shared publicly like this.  (But who’s going to read it?  Just a few special friends.  I don’t expect my website to be found and followed by many).  Another risk is that I can never run my eye over anything I’ve written without wanting to make it better. That means that my website copy may not be exactly the same as the one on my computer or the one I’ve printed out.  All this could lead to an unholy mess.  But never mind – all can be corrected when I’ve arrived at the end of this piece of writing.  Whether it will ever be traditionally published is a question with a large question mark.  I’ve been writing too long to be really bothered about that.  What I have in mind as an end product is something interactive – something that can be played,  read, listened to, looked at.  A new kind of book.    That is my new experiment.