Still picking and painting… thank you Sally, Rod… and geese for Linda

(The random nature of my posts reflects my state of mind)

My much neglected vegetable plot and greenhouse are managing fine without me, and still supplying pickings. dscn9938

In August I meant to clean and re-stain all our external and internal woodwork. I finally started a couple of weeks ago. dscn9898

There’s an awful lot of it, and a lot of other important commitments, so I am like a jack-in-the-box – out if the sun shines, in doing other stuff the instant it looks like rain. I have become weather alert, but this had me foxed. dscn9902 dscn9901 dscn9900

The bits that are done look good, but most of the porch and the left-hand run of windows are still to finish.dscn9948 dscn9949

In between my other commitments there are the other, other commitments – four lectures in four different towns (I’m getting a little less fearful with each one) – and one more to go (with others in the pipeline).

Surviving the Death Railway is travelling the world – thank you to all my fellow bloggers who have bought copies, and to Sally Cronin for generously writing about my work and to Rod on Fragmented Mind for his wonderful review.

Photo for Linda – what I did when I was told to be careful of the geese.hilary-chasing-geese_2


A Serious Business – with a smile

In A Serious Business, Roderick Hart takes us on a privileged tour of the inner life of the retail world – specifically behind the scenes at Mowatts, a venerable family firm. If you have ever worked in this world you will find yourself, with delighted and sometimes groaning recognition, in familiar company. Even your average shopper will recognise most of the characters in this cast. A Serious Business it is – a perfectly chosen title for this subject.

A Serious Business - frontcover

For me the appeal of the book lay in the ordinariness and variety of the characters, people not only from the varied ranks that we see daily: behind a shop counter, in the security guard’s uniform, fixing the window display, serving in the café; but also those we don’t: the now-obligatory IT department, the top-floor management, the basement maintenance staff. All these people are getting on with their work, but always in the light of the events and concerns in their personal lives.

Behind this complex tapestry is a simpler coming of age story, we watch the most self-effacing and likeable of the characters slowly coming, or perhaps more accurately being dug, out of his shell. Meanwhile the single-minded artist leaves mayhem in his wake, the stay-at-home son fails to comprehend that the world does not run for his convenience and the firm’s remaining family members try to steer the ship through the choppy waters of modern big business.

As with Roderick Hart’s Time to Talk, there are many funny and charming byways to both characters and events. Encountering racoons in the  stream of consciousness of our hero as he is dropping off had me chuckling, coming across a Precognition Officer for the first time in my life, and stopping short at ‘boilings’ (presumably boiled sweets to a Southerner like me), stick in my mind.

I finished the book with a smile on my face.

Reading, Writing and (A)rithmetic

After a stressful day (actually week) on the book-publishing front, I am baffled. This is clearly an absurd enterprise, since at the same time I am reading – and enjoying:

Middlemarch (George Eliot); Surviving the Sword, Prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East 1942-45 (Brian MacArthur); One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez). I have started Americana (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) and Morning has Broken, (Carol Balawyder); The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe). I have dipped into The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) and I am looking forward to And Then Like My Dreams – a memoir (Margaret-Rose Stringer); A Serious Business (Roderick Hart)… and then there is Bring Up The Bodies (Hilary Mantel) and The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton) staring at me from the bottom of a pile of books on the other side of the room.

Oh and I will be picking up The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion) from the library and polishing it off for a meeting on the 6th of August… correction I am going to the opera that night – but I will still read it.

With writing like this, the world does not need books by Hilary Custance Green. Any which way you calculate this, it doesn’t add up. I should stick to cultivating my garden, reducing my ‘to read’ pile and my stress levels.

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I’ve invested too much time (years), energy (and some money) in writing, editing, revising, researching, submitting and rewriting this book, never mind all the pfaff of getting a tax identity in the States, and learning how to create ebooks (nearly there with the older novel), to give up now. Also I am too bloody-minded. Also I owe all the kind friends who have supported me. So I shall add another few straws to the giant hayrick of books swamping the world – even though it fails to add up or make any sense at all.

Some rejected book covers to laugh at. I’ve learned a lot about InDesign

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PS. I have now finished the Surviving the Sword, sobering and good for realigning one’s priorities.

A Time to Talk

I read this book just after Christmas and it made a happy contrast to some of the bleak writing I had waded through in the run-up to the festivities.


A Time to Talk is written in the style of a memoir and the voice is engaging, with a delightful turn of phrase and an often original way with language. There is also a self-deprecating tone, which allows the reader to feel both sympathy and mild exasperation with the protagonist as he flounders among the ‘slings and arrows’. Max Frei, a freelance counsellor with nothing but the good intentions towards his clients, finds himself in conflict with the law and in debates with not only experts in his own area, but criminals outside it. All of this is accompanied by his bewildered but happy reactions to his own love affair.  The story is told at a gentle pace giving the narrator plenty of time for introspection, while events unfold around him.

Within this story there is much thought about the serious subject of mental health and the treatments available, but all told with humour and insight that I found refreshing. It is rare to find such serious debate wrapped in such an easy conversational package with much laughter alongside.