Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Choice – What Choice?

When I was small there was one type of crisp – Ready Salted; two types of bread – pan or plain; a few types of chocolate - Cadburys or Rowantree, Nestle.

Then things changed and we had so many choices we didn’t know what to choose. But it seems that the trend is reversing and we aren’t even noticing. There seems to be thousands of products in the shops but are consumers given the choices they want or are they given the choices retailers want us to have?

Two examples are the two As – Apple and Amazon.

I have resisted buying an iAnything because I hate being tied into one product. I also try to avoid Amazon for the same reasons. I don’t buy stuff at Tesco; I don’t like bullies who tell me what to buy and who use their size to push small independents out of the race. And this avoidance has not been easy because Amazon do make it very easy to buy, too easy. It is most people’s dream to have everything one click away.

And it depresses me. The music and books offered to us by Amazon, supermarkets, TV and Radio are a tiny percentage of what is produced by artists each year. If we continue to accept this our culture will be devalued.

But I hadn’t realized how bad things were until I went shopping for an ebook reader. The market is saturated with Kindles, the Amazon’s ebook readers that uses their own format, forcing you to always purchase books from them.

All reviews I have heard start by describing the Kindle and go on to mention, in passing, that others ebook readers are available.

I was disappointed to find that in both John Lewis and Selfridges, Oxford Street, London, I had to search hard for something other than a Kindle. The Sony and Samsung readers demonstrators were either out of batteries or not connected – there were no others to try.

It was while looking for ebooks that the Apple thing caught my eye. It seems that if you are looking for a smart phone or music player this Christmas, you are going to have to search through the hundreds of models of iPods and iPhones to find any other choice.

Good Luck!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Latest Successes

The worst part of a writer's life is learning to deal with rejection letters. But to achieve success it is necessary to submit work for publication. The risk is rejection, the reward is publication.

Earlier this year I read an inspiring essay by writer Linda Cracknell. In this essay she described how she set about systematically submitting her work. She was determined and it paid off. I took her lead and began a submissions frenzy, I studied markets, I bought my envelopes, stamps and International Reply Coupons. Every time I received a rejection I would send the story out again. Here are some of the results.


A memoir piece Winning was commended in the Leaf Memoir Competition and published in the anthology Foresight with Hindsight. You can read Winning here.

Highland Clearance

Earlier this year I was inspired by Anne Redpath's painting The Mantelpiece. I wrote a wee story called Highland Clearance. Northwords Now. a fine Scottish literary paper published the story in its summer issue. You can now read it online here.

The Girl in the Burgundy Boots

Many years ago, when I worked for Shell Oil, I spend the very cold months of February and March in Budapest. Every day I walked from my five star hotel to the Shell Office. On the way I passed a concrete building with covered cloisters. In one of these cloisters lived a tramp who huddled against below-freezing temperatures under mounds of blankets. This story was inspired by him.

The story was published in the Autumn issue of Crannog.

Twenty Five Feet Behind

Woman, even strong women, can too easily fall a few steps behind their partners without realising it. I entered Twenty Five Feet Behind in the Mountaineering Council of Scotland Mountain Story competition and was awarded third prize. It is featured on their website here.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Two fingers to the ash cloud No 3 and No 4

Poolewe in Wester Ross in August
In my Munro bagging days Poolewe was the place you drove through on the way to the mountains. What a treat it was to stop and spend some time there. This was a holiday of deserted beaches, long walks, sore cycles, unproductive fishing, ceilidhs, gardens and sea eagles. I had no idea one place could offer so much. It was a privilege to stop a while and explore.

Writers’ Retreat - Muchalls

I visited this writers’ retreat last year and edited my novel. My visit this year was very different. I embarked on a new project, a new skill, writing a stage play. It was daunting but the solitude and the space to sit and stare at the sea were the perfect tutors for my new craft work. The fact that on two occasions a large school of dolphins danced past only feet from the shoreline made the experience all the more special.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Two fingers to the ash cloud No2

Bute in June

Lighthouse just south of Kilchattan Bay

A weekend is all you need as an introduction to this little gem. I had always been a little sniffy about Bute because of all the 'goan doon the watter fur the fair' history. What I found was an island of many faces.
Bute has a short/long distance route - The West Island Way - This meanders round coast land, through forests and roadside paths for thirty miles, giving the feeling of a long tramp but never far from the main town of Rothesay. The views are towards the mainland and Cumbrae on one side and Arran on the other. Good fish and chips too.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Two fingers to the ash cloud No1

You don't need an ash cloud threat to enjoy what your home country has to offer. Here is one from a selection of trips I have made in Scotland in the past few months.

The Kintyre Way in May

This is a 87 mile long footpath that crisscrosses through the Kintyre Peninsula. We completed it, south to north, in six days but did cheat on two of the road sections because we felt they were too dangerous. It was a unique experience, sore on the feet, kind on the mind. With hardly any other walkers on the route we felt we had the world to ourselves.