Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Events in June 2023

Virtual Writing Retreat
Sunday 11th June
Hannah's Bookshelf
I'm hosting a online writing retreat for creative writers with writing exercises and structured writing sessions
Members Event

Booth Hall Before the Hospital
Monday 12th June
Cheetham and Crumpsall Heritage Society
I'm giving a local history talk on the history of Booth Hall (the hall, not the hospital), Blackley
Members and Non-Members Event (£3.00 per session)

Summer Solstice Walk in the Woods
Tuesday 20th June
Friends of Bailey's Wood
I'll be leading a sociable walk in the woods to enjoy the changing seasons
Booking Link

Bailey's Wood Summer Solstice Walk and Talk
Wednesday 21st June
Friends of Bailey's Wood
I'll be leading a gentle, social walk in the woods with a Summer Solstice theme
Booking Link

Summer Solstice Poetry in the Park
Wednesday 21st June
Castlerea House
I'm running a seasonal poetry and storytelling workshop session in the park for residents at Castlerea care home
Private Event

Interested in booking me for an event? Click here to find out more.

Monday, 22 May 2023

Midsummer Stories Wanted for Hannah's Bookshelf on North Manchester FM

Submit your seasonal flash fiction to be played on Hannah’s Bookshelf this June!

Can you tell a seasonal story in just 3 minutes? Want to have your work played on the radio? This month, I’m looking for seasonal (Midsummer, Summer Solstice) flash fiction from around the world for inclusion on Hannah’s Bookshelf, the weekly literature show on North Manchester FM.

On Saturday 24th June, I'll be hosting the first Hannah's Bookshelf Midsummer Special, and as part of my seasonal special, I’ll be playing a selection of my favourite 3-minute stories on the show (broadcast on FM and on digital). Want to be part of it? Submit a recording via my website of your seasonally inflected story (maximum 3 minutes) by midnight on Monday 12th June.

All genres welcome – be they cosy, romantic, scary or sad. The only rules are that stories must be your own original work, have some connection to the season, and be in English (the language of the broadcast). And please ease off the swears – stories have to be radio friendly! All you need is a microphone and a story – the details of how to submit are on my website.

If you aren't able to submit via a recording and would like another method of taking part, please message via my website for more information.

Please share this call with anyone who you think might be interested – I'd like to cast the net as wide as possible. My favourite seasonal stories will be broadcast on the Hannah’s Bookshelf Midsummer Special at 2pm on Saturday 24th June, on digital radio and 106.6FM.

Monday, 1 May 2023

Beltane: Day 7

Ah well, the final day of our Beltane week. At least we're both feeling better now! But that means we're both back at work, so no time for any final celebrations. Still, there's always next year!

‘A Merrie May’

The final seasonal chapter in Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun was 'A Merrie May', which was an excellent way to finish off my seasonal reading. It certainly provided a lot of food for thought (especially after watching The Wicker Man last night), and so it was a good way to finish off the season.

And so the wheel of the year turns. We'll be celebrating again at Midsummer (fingers crossed!).

My Year in Books 2023: April

Well, this month's post is slightly longer than last month's. There are three books on this month's list! I'm quite pleased with that, as we've both been so ill I'm surprised I got chance to read anything at all!

My mini-reviews of the books I read in April are below, but in case you're interested, here are my posts for the rest of the year so far: January, February, March

Myst: The Book of Atrus by David Wingrove, Rand Miller and Robyn Miller (1995)

A while ago, me and my brother decided that we’d replay the Myst videogames together. We have very happy memories of playing the original Myst when it first came out in the 90s, and some vaguer memories of playing some (we’re not 100% sure which) of the sequels. We’ve been merrily (or should that be frustratedly?) working our way through the games, and we’re up to Uru: Ages Beyond Myst now. Sadly, we’ve had to put our weekly game sessions on hold in April due to illness. So this seemed like a good time to go full completist and read the novels! My brother read The Book of Atrus back in the 90s, but I’ve never read any of them before. If you know anything about the Myst games, then you might have guessed that the novels aren’t straightforward novelizations. Nothing as mundane as that! The Book of Atrus is more a prequel to the first game, which fills in a lot of the backstory and – much as I hate the word – lore that sits behind Myst. It’s a bit weird reading it several decades after first encountering the game, but I did enjoy the way it works as a parallel text to the game, and it’s very readable. Obviously, you don’t need to read the novel to understand the game itself, but it adds some interesting extra layers. It also adds some detail to Uru that perhaps would have been useful to us before we started that particular instalment!

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (2016)

The next book I read this month was another library book. I’ve had this one checked out for ages, but somehow never seemed to get around to reading it. I got a bit of a nudge from the library, as I discovered this month that I’d renewed it the maximum number of times! I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading Hag-Seed because I generally really like Margaret Atwood’s writing (and I love a couple of her books), but I guess it just ended up buried in my to-read pile. I’m glad I dug it out though (at the library’s prompting), as I thoroughly enjoyed Hag-Seed. The story is a riff on Shakespeare’s The Tempest – partly a retelling, and partly an exploration of the themes of Shakespeare’s play. Felix Phillips is a theatre director who is ousted from his position as a director of a prestigious festival during preparations for a production of The Tempest. For twelve years, Felix lives in a (semi-)self-imposed exile, planning his revenge against the people who destroyed his career. He takes up a post teaching literature in a prison and devises a Shakespeare programme for inmates. The stage is then set for him to lure his enemies to his ‘island’ for a very special production of The Tempest. Hag-Seed is compelling and readable, with surprisingly sympathetic characters and some rather moving considerations on loss, revenge and imprisonment. I’m very glad it finally got to the top of my pile!

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan (2019)

Another library book now… though not one that’s quite as overdue as the previous one! I’m not sure what led me to pick up Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel. Even a glance at the cover suggests it is not my usual sort of reading material, so it’s a bit of a mystery. However, I have to say I’m glad I picked it up. Yes – Hogan’s novel is absolutely not the sort of book I would normally read, but I actually really enjoyed it. The story is told across two different times and in two different voices. In the present day, we meet adult Tilda, a rather closed-off, even cold woman who had a difficult relationship with her mother. Tilda’s mother has died and we find the protagonist moving into her mother’s flat to sort through both the physical and psychological reminders of her childhood. These chapters are alternated with chapters about Tilly, a rather charming seven-year-old who lives with her mother after her father leaves for work. Essentially, the book is about Tilda’s task of reconciling her memories of childhood (including her stay at the eponymous Paradise Hotel with the larger-than-life Queenie) with revelations about what really happened – helped along by some diaries kept by her mother, and by her ability to see and speak to ghosts (something that I would normally find a bit annoying but actually works well here). It’s a story filled with warmth and – ultimately – forgiveness, but it steers on the right side of sentimental and saccharine.

Sunday, 30 April 2023

Beltane: Day 6

Our last day of celebrating together, as Rob is going to be going back to work tomorrow. As I've said in previous posts, we've not had as much of a Beltane extravaganza as we'd planned. Nevertheless, we were determined to have a proper Beltane dinner tonight!

‘Royal Oak’

I read the penultimate (and utterly fascinating!) seasonal chapter from Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun today: 'Royal Oak'.

Beltane Dinner

Now that we can both eat (sort of) properly and with minimal pain, Rob made us our traditional Beltane Dinner of sausage casserole tonight!

Beltane Gifts

We swapped our Beltane cards and gifts tonight. Two more whiskies to add to the set we'll be sampling at Christmas.

The Wicker Man

And, of course, what Beltane Dinner would be complete without the seasonal film?

Events in May 2023

Booth Hall Before the Hospital
Wednesday 10th May
Friends of Bailey's Wood
I'm giving a local history talk on the history of Booth Hall (the hall, not the hospital), Blackley
Booking Link

Virtual Writing Retreat
Sunday 21st May
Hannah's Bookshelf
I'm hosting a online writing retreat for creative writers with writing exercises and structured writing sessions
Members Event

Interested in booking me for an event? Click here to find out more.

Saturday, 29 April 2023

Beltane: Day 5

Another day of our sickness-restricted Beltane. We're back in Manchester now, and we managed to make it out and into nature. At least we got to see a few trees this year!

‘Rogationtide and Pentecost’

The next seasonal chapter of Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun was 'Rogationtide and Pentecost'.

Bailey’s Wood Beltane Litter-Pick

It might not have been the Beltane festivities we had planned, but we were out for the Friends of Bailey's Wood Beltane litter-pick today, so I spent the morning surrounded by hawthorn and birdsong.

Friday, 28 April 2023

Beltane: Day 4

And another day with limited seasonal fun for us (we're still poorly!). We're going to need a massive Beltane next year to make up for this one, I think.

‘Morris and Marian’

I did read another seasonal chapter from Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun today. There are quite a few chapters devoted to May and the beginning of summer, so it's keeping me going through the week.

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Beltane: Day 3

Sadly, it's another very quiet Beltane day for us due to ongoing illness. Not a lot to report this time, I'm afraid.

‘May Games and Whitsun Ales’

Although we weren't in a particularly celebratory mood, I did read the next seasonal chapter of Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun today, which was on 'May Games and Whitsun Ales'.