Week-end: Twelfth Night, somehow

A paper 'stained glass' window shows the Magi offering gifts to the child Jesus and Mary

The good

Lunch out with friends. Sharing good news. A really interesting discussion about John the Baptist.

My brain is coming back! Slowly, but it’s on the way. I have been reading things. I have been writing things. I have been watching things.

The mixed

It’s just as well that I’ve been working from home all week, because I’ve been collapsing into bed as soon as I clock off. I’m a bit worried about how I’m going to cope next week.

The difficult and perplexing

I’m becoming increasingly aware that for my next trick I need to become much better at delegating. But at this stage I’m still very much in the ‘it’ll only take five minutes; might as well do it myself’ phase, and delegating (and chasing the people I’ve delegated to) is also work. Improvement needed.

What’s working

Going for the easy option. Zoom rather than a dash to the South (this is tomorrow but I’m already glad I’m not taking a train to Guildford). Lunch in the pub that is nearest. And so on.


Lady B- is back! And I’ve just started Snow Ball (Brigid Brophy): cynical and scintillating.


Most of an interview for my alma mater, and a little more on the blog about the Belgian Coastal Tramway. Coming soon. I hope.


I got the darning loom out again and mended holes in: my favourite navy Guernsey jumper; one of Tony’s long-sleeved T-shirts; a pyjama top.


Charade: a self-consciously silly caper film starring Audrey Hepburn and the Parisian urban transit network. Mostly the M├ętro, but there was an excellent moment where Cary Grant leapt onto the back of a bus, as is entirely correct. I guessed the solution of the mystery quite early on, but there were plenty of other twists to keep me amused.

Continuing with Detectorists. I also started Our Flag Means Death. I’d been rather put off by hype backlash (a constant weakness of mine) and the earnestness of the fandom discourse, but it turns out to be delightfully silly (as well as Good Queer Rep and, what I hadn’t heard so much about, a clever commentary on the place of pirates in popular culture). I continue to get earwormed by the Horrible Histories Blackbeard song.


An extremely bland and comforting tuna pasta bake. And then the thing with pearl barley, chorizo and kale (the only way to make kale interesting that I have yet discovered).


Today at the pub I had a chickpea curry (forgettable) followed by peach tarte tatin (very nice).


It feels rather depressing to be noting what used to be my standard morning walk as an incident of record, but there we go.


This afternoon I was taught to play Bears vs Babies. Rather fun.

In the garden

The squirrel has discovered the peanut feeder. I shall rearrange the feeders and leave the nuts out of it for a bit.


Intelligent theological conversation. Friends. Being able to nap.


Merino wool long johns in the Mountain Warehouse sale. Will it get cold enough again to wear them? We shall see.

Line of the week

Almost every line of The Snow Ball has been quotable. What about:

He was short, and hollowed out by middle age; and his sporran leapt hectically, leapt breathlessly, up and down, not keeping time with the lighter leaps of his jabot.

Saturday snippet

The beach was a generous sweep of pale sand, scattered with seashells. I thought about paddling, but decided against it. The sea was quite a way out, and the wind was cold.

This coming week

Four days in the office. Will I manage to stay awake? And will I get the hang of the (heretofore unmentioned) Instant Pot? Stay tuned!

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Engaging with the tradition


A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend about what I was writing and what he’d been watching. I’m writing the sequel to Speak Its Name, which in its current state is mostly about vocations and relationships and what they do to each other. He’d been watching Fleabag, and thought that it had quite a lot to say to what I was doing, and had I seen it?

I said that I hardly watch any TV at all, because I lack the staying power. I can keep up with something for one or two episodes, but then life gets in the way and I get behind. (So I mostly watch Doctor Who, where you can dip in and out and it makes just as much sense as if you had managed to see last week’s episode.) So no, I hadn’t seen Fleabag.

But it’s a very good point. Whatever you’re writing about, whatever genre you’re writing in, someone will have been there first. (And if you don’t engage with that tradition, then there’s a very real danger of making yourself look like an utter plonker. See: Ian McEwan and sci-fi.)

Speak Its Name and whatever-the-sequel’s-going-to-be-called sit not quite comfortably within the Barchester genre. And that is a tradition that I’ve been engaging with ever since I wrote my undergraduate dissertation (Fit Persons To Serve In The Sacred Ministry of Thy Church: representations of Anglican clergy 1855-65) if not before (my mother, seeing me with a copy of Glittering Images shortly before my A-level exams, prudently removed it from me). Most recently, of course, there’s been Catherine Fox‘s Lindchester. Sometimes I think I’m engaged not so much in a dialogue with Lindchester as in a stand-up screaming match, while at the same time finding it intensely familiar and moving. So maybe I’ll get round to watching Fleabag, or more probably I won’t, but I think I’ve probably done enough homework there.

A Spoke in the Wheel is slightly different. Not so much in terms of genre – I suppose it’s somewhere between a romance and a social problem novel – but in terms of subject matter. I read loads of cycling books, but they were all non-fiction. Most of them were memoirs.

There isn’t really a tradition, you see. Elsewhere (and elsewhen – almost a decade ago, in fact) on the Internet, William Fotheringham has a list of the top ten cycling novels. They’re a mixed bag, and the diversity of genres represented suggests that he had to scratch around quite a lot to find any ten, let alone a top ten.

If I were feeling inspired I’d try matching the titles to the various roles within a team (sprinter, GC contender, domestique, grimpeur, rouleur, etc), but I’m feeling a bit too tired for that. And I’ve only attempted three of them in recent years. (I’m sure I must have had The Adventure of the Priory School read to me when I was a child, but it hasn’t stuck.)

  • Cat ought to be the sort of thing I’d love, but every time I’ve tried it I’ve foundered on the extended passages in italic type.
  • Three Men on the Bummel is not quite as good as Three Men in a Boat, and contains quite a lot of tedious national stereotyping.
  • The Rider was the one I saved for after I’d finished writing A Spoke In The Wheel, because when something’s been sold as ‘the best cycling novel of all time’, it’s a bit intimidating when you’re just trying to write a decent one.

And I’ve now downloaded The Wheels of Chance (thank you, Project Gutenberg).

Actually, the one cycling book I’m really glad I didn’t read before starting ASITW is Fotheringham‘s own Put Me Back On My Bike. I just don’t think I’d have had the nerve to write about fictional doping with that magnificent and uncomfortably vivid account of the tragedy of Tom Simpson always in the back of my mind.


* Having said that, I’ve now watched all of Good Omens, so it turns out that I’m perfectly capable of watching television when somebody else organises it and when it’s a day that I didn’t have earmarked for writing. I’m still two episodes behind on Gentleman Jack, though, and it’ll be three if I don’t get my act together this weekend.