Monday, January 29, 2007

Packing for Hull.

My apologies for not being around in the blogosphere very much recently. I'm afraid I've been entrapped by a book and now I am off to the north east of England for the next couple of days to give a talk to the Hull Literary and Philosophical Society.

Today I made a few crucial tweaks to my talk on Alfred Wegener and transferred my presentation from Appleworks to Powerpoint which I hope will be more stable (Appleworks has a tendency to disappear without warning, I've found - which is a little off-putting mid-talk).

When I came to pack some Wegener books I found I'd given more than I thought away and since I am not allowed to sell the American edition I could only scrape together ten hardback books to take with me. I doubt that I could carry many more on the train with me in any case.

Friday, January 26, 2007

How Did Hodmandod Senior Manage To Grow Up?

Tonight Hodmandod Senior discovered that if you switch on a hand blender in a bowl of water it is possible to pick up objects of limited weight. This, he decided was due to the blender causing some sort of up draught of water.

I pointed out that since the blender was half submerged in water and attached to the mains that this was a dangerous activity and he should desist at once.

'But soup probably conducts electricity more than water and you use it for that.'

I agreed that he was probably right (as usual).

'Anyway,' he said, 'I've had a couple of shocks from the mains before, and it's not that bad.'


I have known Hodmandod Senior for more than half my long life now and I hadn't heard this one before. I already know about his mother dropping a pair of scissors on his head and the blade implanting itself in his cranium; the time he made (and exploded) nitroglycerine in his garden shed; and the incident with a pulley over a tree in which he managed to knock himself out and has never properly recovered his sense of smell. But tonight I found out that he once waggled wires around in a mains socket and apart from all the muscles in his body becoming weirdly stiff (presumably in a spasm) he also saw lights (and maybe his life) flash before his eyes.

I listed his lives on the fingers of my hand and asked him if there was anything else I should know about.

'Well there was the time I got squeezed some gunpowder between two bolts and it exploded in my hands...' he said.

'How did you make it to adulthood?' I said, as I always do.

He shrugged and smiled. If, like a cat, a Hodmandod has nine lives Hodmandod Senior has only three left.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The compounding of errors.

In the Penn Club guests are invited to sit at the long communal table if they wish to engage in conversation. Feeling oddly brave last week (probably through complete lack of sleep) I took my place in the middle - and I am glad that I did so because I had a very interesting conversation with a man who was investigating the work of Robert Lewis Stevenson in the British Library.

He told me that every edition of a classic work is different. The first transcription contains errors and these are repeated, and new errors included, with each new edition that is made so that gradually the American versions, say, become less and less like the English versions.

We started to think of similes - like the way language itself evolves, he said, or perhaps the mistakes in the replication of DNA in cells until a new species forms. However, in the case of a book, of course, it is possible to go back to the original manuscript and start again (which is what he was doing).

Tonight I think about something I have often thought about - how interesting it would be to go back to listen to that first pure language of man. I suspect I would hear a grunt beginning with 'muh' and a child reaching out to be fed. The word for 'Mother' must be a universal uttering of life.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Today at least 100 people died in Iraq

From this picture on the BBC website.

I do not know much about the politics of this place
but I see you
holding your child
and he looks like mine.
The same Adidas stripes
the same socked feet
the same band of pale skin
where the sweat shirt gapes
and I hope so much
that he sleeps in your arms
that tomorrow he wakes
smiles and stretches
- as if from a bad dream.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

BAFAB 2007: The Winners

Well, after long consideration the decision has been made...

Firstly, I'd like to say that I found Blog Queen's art business venture and Professor's Fantasy's foray into publishing both hugely commendable and I look forward to following how they are going and supporting you both as much as I can;

that I am sure that Sadie J will keep her vow and I would love to hear how that goes too. The best of luck, and I am sure you will end up loving every moment;

that even though Dreamweaver indicates that her hope for reviews are just dreams at the moment - I hope they will eventually come true;

and that 'Anon I' will have equal success in her search for a partner too.

I would also like to say that I found both Anonny Nonny and Intisar's lists wonderfully inspiring and entertaining, so thank you so much for those.

It was a very difficult decision and in the end found I could not narrrow it down to just one winner but three and these are:

(i) Bad Girl for her imagination and verve - she receives a copy a copy of '98 Reasons For Being'.

(ii) Scott for his persistence and for making me laugh - he receives either a copy of my Wegener book (or if he has read that a copy of 'Karluk' by William Laird McKinlay - the story of another Arctic Adventure).

and (iii) Anonymous II who is returning to university in order to study for a PhD. This sounds to me to be an excellent and worthwhile activity and I'd like to wish you all my best. He or she willl receive 'Body Parts' by Hermione Lee - 'a series of brilliant essays...about every aspect of reading and writing, a life.' I hope that she/he will find it inspiring read.

So CONGRATULATIONS Bad Girl, Scott and Anon II - if you would email me (clareATclaredudmanDOTcom) with your addresses I shall send the books to you ASAP.

Thank you all very much for taking part and thank you to Susan, Filberta and Andrew for helping me with my choice.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Party

Well, after six hours on a train this dedicated party-goer arrived at the wind-swept capital - large branches strewn across the pavement and everyone fighting to keep their feet. In the British Library an announcement advised people to check their transport home and when I emerged again at about four-thirty the shops in Euston Road were in darkness and it occurred to me that the party might be cancelled. But it wasn't.

I was staying at the Penn club - the place where John Wyndham spent most of his working life in a single room with communal bathroom. I managed not to snag my last pair of tights (out of three), and soon was walking down Russell Street, Charing Cross Road, Shaftesbury Avenue, Picadilly and then St James Street to arrive at the club.

The club had a grand piano in the front window and from the outside the party guests looked like animated mannequins with young publishing assistants in glamorous dresses checking people in at the door. I took off my hat and tried to comb my hair flat with my fingers.
'No, author. Clare Dudman.' (I still feel slightly embarrassed about describing myself like this). But a swift check down the relevant list (and maybe my dishevelled appearance) indicated I was telling the truth. 'Yes, OK. Go ahead.'

Now the 'going in' bit to going to a party is always a challenge, I find. Sometimes I have to walk around the block a few times persuading myself not to walk away, and once or twice I have hovered at the entrance and almost given up before being dragged in with a small mob. But perhaps worse than the 'going in' is 'the entrance' where there are masses of people (when I always feel like the unsophisticated provincial) and then the undressing and the acquiring of a cloakroom ticket. I fumble fastenings, I drop things - and worst of all I giggle at nothing. I feel awkward and out of place and the only cure is alcohol administered as quickly as possible.

Then things get better. And I am happy to report that on Thursday I eventually managed to enjoy myself very well. In fact it was a great party - lots of dancing and lots of talking and some very interesting guests. At about one a.m. I realised that the place was almost empty and started my walk back to the club. However I was so hyped up by it all I couldn't sleep and lay in bed listening to the wind still screeching down the mostly covered fireplace and behind that the sounds of central London - ambulance sirens and soon some insomniacal birds.

I am still exhausted and hoping to return to normal life tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An Invitation.

This came through the post before Christmas: quite sophisticated, I thought, and I love the subtlety of the design that is only obvious when the light catches it - the glossy black figures on the matt black background.

Sceptre, the literary imprint of Hodder and Stoughton, has been in business 21 years and they have invited me to their party on Thursday. I am hoping that there will be music because what I intend to do is have a few drinks then determinedly dance the night away - which is what I did last time. Sceptre do not have parties very often, it seems. Their last big party was in September 2001 to mark their fifteenth year. I had just come back from Greenland and 9/11 was raw in everyone's mind. I remember thinking that everything seemed unreal and I am not sure even now if this was because of the shock of the terrorist attack or just because I was just feeling slightly overwhelmed by the number of bodies packed together in several large rooms after spending the last couple of weeks of not speaking to anyone in the magnificent isolation of the Arctic.

Parties often seem to have a surreal edge to me and I am not comfortable in them. Usually I find I don't know many people and have a hard time forcing myself to talk to strangers. It is quite possible for me to feel more lonely in a room full of people than in an empty landscape where there is just me and the wind. That is why I hope there will be music on Thursday night because if all else fails I can dance - not exactly on my own but in the company of strangers - and I shall be perfectly happy.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Some nights I like to dance on my own by candle-light. I like seeing my reflection in the French windows and watching the flick of my hands and the angles of my elbows widening and then narrowing again. It is something I've always done - although last year I can't remember doing it at all. It is a strange activity, I suppose, not particularly attractive for anyone else to see, and I am probably too old, but it makes me feel happy; as if I could do anything.

Last night I took this picture of my little man who always dances alongside me too.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Well I tried the Magikwidget as suggested by Debra H but unfortunately it only allowed a choice of five and since there's more than that I'll leave it just for you to write in with your vote. Here's the choice:

1. Blog Queen's Art Business Venture;
2. Sadie J's speaking in public ...with relish and without fear;
3. Professor Fantasy's Publishing Business;
4. Dreamweaver's reviewing aspirations;
5. Anonny Nonny's Great Peanut Butter Plan;
6. Anon I's ambition to find a partner;
7. Intisar's aspirational list of small things (including scooter riding);
8. Scott's plan involving pigs, sheep and the south pole;
9. Bad Girl's ambitions for Europe, singing and the President;
10. Anon II's re-entry into academia.

So if you could give me your vote in comments below for what you think is the most fabulous plan for 2007 I should be very grateful.

I like all of the entries in different ways, so THANK YOU everyone for entering. I have very much enjoyed your comments.

The voting ends midnight 21st January 2007.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

BAFAB - a reminder

Only 40 hours left to tell me your fabulous plan for 2007.

Following a suggestion from Susan I am going to invite votes for the best plan - I suppose I'd better make that once the deadline is past (midnight(GMT), 14th January). I think I'm going to need all the help I can find.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Creativity: some implications for (creative) writers.

At the moment I am reading about creativity - a subject that is fascinating me the more I delve into it. Here are three facts pertinent to the business of writing:

(i) creative people love what they do; the business of getting paid is an additional bonus.

(ii) it requires at least 10 years of full immersion in the 'creative domain' (for writers a commitment to writing more or less full-time) in order for any artist or scientist to achieve their master-piece or ground-breaking discoovery (this has depressing implications for the writer in today's publication industry since if an author does not sell immediately their future as a writer is threatened);

(iii) creating in order to be rewarded inhibits creativity. Therefore writing for a market or indeed a particular readership (and therefore establishing sales and an income) will not create a great work. The work must be created for its own sake.

So, in order to create their 'great work' a writer must write for his or herself, must love what they do regardless of any market, and must be supported in doing very little else for at least ten years. In other words every writer of any promise is in desperate need of is either a faithful and besotted patron or a mindless job that pays well and allows much day-dreaming.

Very luckily for me I have Hodmandod Senior.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Kick Boxer

My first kick boxing lesson today. I have been looking forward to this all week; it is my attempt to boot in some new life into 2007.

The instructor was young, slight and shy, refusing to look anyone in the face, but when presented with a punch bag did not hesitate in beating the hell out of it. I had to hold it in front of my face and everytime he hit it I was forced two or three steps backwards.

Then it was our turn. I soon got into a rhythm - left punch, right punch, left hook, calf-kick and then knee. It was fun and energetic and I shall be doing it again. However I don't think the muggers of Chester have anything too much to be worried about just yet.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Better World Books

Recently I have taken to buying books from Amazon's other sellers and have been perfectly happy with the service so far. Tonight I made a purchase from a seller called Better World Books and just received this in their acknowledgement:

Better World Books utilizes the value of the book to fund literacy initiatives locally, nationally and around the world. Please know that your purchase will help us in our efforts to promote and support our literacy partners and their initiatives. Your purchase will provide much needed funding that is instrumental to the efforts of those whose passion it is to provide the world's least fortunate with the opportunities that literacy affords.

I'd not heard of this before. It sounds like an excellent idea.

2007: The Year So Far

I come back to the land of the Blog after a few days absence and look around. So much has happened.

Marly Youmans and Jeff Ford are reading exotic and wonderful-sounding books from the far east (Marly has committed herself to writing a set of appreciations of the works of little-known authors this year and the first one was mine, which was so overwhelmingly kind that I reacted rather like some daft actress who overdoes things at the Oscars);

Snailtales has opened the year with two fascinating posts on the way a slug eats algae off a tree and news of a book composed of articles from science blogs and compiled by A blog Around The Clock which sounds very interesting;

Twitches has written a poem about snails (yes!) which is well up to her usual magnificent standard;

while Gordon McCabe has started off a new universe in his living room using instructions garnered from the web. It seems to be going quite well so far.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Incurable Addictions

Oh, I can't keep away from my blog. Sad, sad addict that I am. Three days (is that all?) and it has been a torture.

On Friday I (very unfortunately) had to take a library book back and I spotted there was a sale on in the basement so I just thought I'd take a look. I bought four books (as if I haven't got quite enough already): NO ONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, THE LAST RESORT by Alison Lurie, David Lodge and Janet Frame's autobiography AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE.

I also borrowed two library books: the fascinating CONSCIOUSNESS by the late Jeffrey Gray (which I had started a few weeks ago before someone had the audacity to request it back) and also BLINK by Macolm Gladwell (mainly because of Debra Hamel's recommendation).

The fiction turned out to be international (which pleased me). I dipped into the autobiography and found that Janet Frame is from Chief Biscuit territory of Dunedin in New Zealand so I am looking forward to that having had a taste of the place from CB's blog and also her very evocative short story. I also started a couple of non-library books: Jill Dawson's WATCH ME DISAPPEAR which has an incredibly pacy start, and dipped into a little poetry - CLAIRE by Marly Youmans which I loved (more on these later).

I have been endeavouring to make a little order in my life. I am sure there are enough hours in the day for me to do everything (including my beloved blogging) and get a decent night's sleep (very much lacking recently) if I could just be a bit more disciplined. I think I'm getting there...

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Blogging Hiatus

Just a short one, I hope...

Monday, January 01, 2007

BAFAB Competition: A Fabulous Thing

It is BAFAB time again and the competition this time round is for you to tell me the most original/worthwhile/fantastic/exciting thing (although it doesn't have to be all these) you intend to do this year in the comments below.

Please give yourself a fictitious name and do not include your website so I can pick the winner without knowing who you are.

The winner will receive an appropriate book to be decided by me at the end of the competition.

The closing date is 14th January.