Happy Birthday Laurie Lee – 100 today


The End of the Road

Today is a landmark day for me, a day towards which I have been working for over two years. My book As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee is officially published today  and available on Amazon.co.uk as a kindle/paperback.9781781322079-PerfectCover.indd


Birthday Wishes

Laurie Lee would have been 100 today.

There has seen a plethora of articles and broadcasts in celebration of the writer, including an article by me on one of the Book Industry’s  leading trade websites Book Brunch. I tell the story behind the research and writing of my book and the journey that I made following in Laurie Lee’s footsteps down across Spain in the summer and autumn of 2012.

The Radio 4 “Today ” programme carried a headline piece on Laurie Lee, the podcast is now available, see links to other articles carried today.

Crowd Funding Site Still Live-10 days to go

My crowd-funding appeal at Pubslush.com is standing at 34% with just 10 days to go, if you would like a signed and dedicated copy or a selection of other extras, check out the site and support me in raising money for good causes.


 The Wheel Has Come Full Circle


In a strange and magical way my journey has now turned full circle. In my book I mention a lost love of mine that still haunted me as I made my journey down through Spain. We shared a life in Spain in the 1980’s. This is us then….

Kay&Paul_Sept1981 002 (1)

Just a few weeks ago, through the book, we were re-united and everything just fell back into place as if it was meant to be !


It looks like I have my Indian Summer, my little summer of the quince after all.











A  New Dawning

To cap a lovely day I received a small gift from a friend of my mother’s who had just received a signed copy of my book. Pam had heard on the radio that Laurie Lee, who loved plants and nature, always had his favourite rose climbing up and around the front door of his cottage in Slad. It was called “New Dawn” and Pam just happened to have one growing in the garden. She sent my mum back with a cutting for me and here it is…photo (25)

A new dawn for me beckons…





Second Chances In Life

Writer, Photographer, Singer, Spy?

The observant amongst you will have noticed the title of this blog, “thelittlesummerofthequince,” a translation of the Spanish phrase “El veranillo del membrillo,” meaning Indian summer.

I am having my own Indian summer as I strive to become a writer and enjoy a second chance in life. This comes relatively late in my life after a long career in local government and a recently failed marriage and redundancy. Second chances in life can come much earlier though.

The new quince logo for this blog, launched today, has been designed for me by my niece, Elisabeth Murphy, a talented Fine Arts artist. She is 17 and currently applying to University. For a number of years she has been set on studying Fine Arts and had a clear idea on how she saw her future career. Her parents recently took her to Russia, to St Petersburg, to see the city’s great art houses and galleries.

During a visit to The Hermitage, Elisabeth’s attention was drawn to a small exhibition of the work of Annie Liebovitz , the leading contemporary photographer. The exhibition changed her life and she is now set on studying Photography. I was intrigued by her change of heart and fascinated by her reasoning. She is interested in capturing life in its most perfect form and her “still life”style of drawing illustrates this. She explained that when she saw Liebovitz’s work, she realised that her drawing could never match the perfection of the photographs and needed to become a photographer. As a writer I can understand her need to capture the beauty of life in all its layers.

My daughter, Ellie Larke, studied Drama at University but had not been totally convinced of this choice. She finished the degree course but by the end had already decided to change course and embark on a career as a jazz/folk/blues singer. She has chosen a hard course but I am impressed, not just by her undoubted talent, but also by her persistence, determination and spirit when faced by setbacks. She spent last summer touring the USA, catching her idol, Paul Simon, on his worldwide tour,playing gigs and researching the music scene. Singing is a specialised form of storytelling which engages the senses at a level beyond the reach of most writers and I envy her this ability.

My brother is a taxation expert who used to work in one of London’s tallest buildings in the City. For several years he managed to convince a friend’s young daughter that he was in fact a spy and the building doubled as the headquarters of MI5.

I recently reread John Le Carre’s ” Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, a classic spy novel featuring George Smiley, one of my literary heroes and I was struck by the similarities between fiction writing and spying.

The writer as a spy?  Well we do often strive to deceive the reader, good invariably confronts evil in our books and creative tension and plot are maintained and driven by conscience and morality. We all live double lives, our real lives and our lives as we see them and justify them to ourselves.

Stories, photographs, songs, espionage, they all form part of our everyday lives and define our existence.

The quince, as drawn by Elisabeth, is a bittersweet fruit, like life really.



Getting it Right First Time Round

Swimming Home is the title of Deborah Levy’s latest well reviewed novel, her first for 15 years. She was speaking about the novel at an event, hosted by University College Falmouth Department of Writing, last Thursday 25th November 2011.   

For me one really interesting story emerged from the Q and A session that followed the reading of an extract from the novel. This told of a serendipitous encounter that radically changed the course of her life as a writer.Levy had been asked what had been the most critical step in her finding her true voice as an author and becoming the writer that she is.

  This is what she told us: during a gap year before she was due to go to a traditional English university to study mainstream English Literature , she had been working at a small art house cinema in Notting Hill, London. One week it was showing films by the illustrious director,Derek Jarman.Jarman had asked Levy what she was planning to study and Levy had shared her plans.  He took her under her wing for the day, a remarkably kind act by the distinguished director and took her to an art exhibition by Joseph Beuys     a performance and installation artist.

The exhibition switched a light on in Levy’s head and she, as a result, decided to change course and study Performance Writing.  She ended up studying at Dartington College of Art , now incorporated into University College Falmouth  and the rest, as they say, is history.   

So: what’s this story doing in a blog devoted to grasping Second Chances in Life?

Simply, I guess,  that it illustrates that getting it right in the first place can save an awful lot of time  further down the line.

 We are not all as lucky perhaps as Levy, which is where” Second Chances in Life” come in.

Last Chance Saloon


Are you drinking in the Last Chance Saloon?

Christmas is coming, the new year approaching, has 2011 done it for you?

Coming up for retirement ? What will they be saying and thinking about you as they hand over that clock that will tick its way all the way to the end?

Do you fancy a new life ? No need to go down to the sea and fake a disappearance, how about going down to the sea and become a writer , that’s what I did !

I have been made redundant and been divorced over the past two years. 

 I have come down to the sea to start again and embarked on a full time 1 year MA in Professional Writing at University College Falmouth.

As a writer you read and as I have read during these first few days I have found some rich inspiration.

The Sense of an Ending is a novel, by Julian Barnes, that has just been awarded the Man Booker prize for 2011.


You might think it strange to start a new blog with a story about an ending but stick with me.

I  prefer to think of it as the end of my first life. I read the book just as I started my new life by the sea in Cornwall .

The book is a sumptious bittersweet story of the ordinary and contented life of Tony Webster, viewed in flashback and narrated by Tony himself. During the course of the novel we see how the prism of memory and perspective distorts reality. Tony talks of how we unwittingly paint our own picture of ourselves and our lives, one that suits our needs and one that without which we could not keep going. 

” Our life is not our life merely the story we have told about our life, told to others but-mainly-told to ourselves”

Tony comes to see by the end of the novel that there is little left of certainty in his life to cling to and he is left to deal with remorse and emptiness. I feel many similarities with Tony, in my case a 25 year local government career notable for nothing much if I am being honest, happily married for 17 years with a gorgeous daughter. Like Tony I am now divorced.

I look back on my life and marriage and wonder at the veracity of my personal narrative over the years. One of Julian Barnes’ characters comes out with a perceptive take on why history or the past or the truth is so often perceived in different,often opposite ways, by people who have occupied the same space or time.

 ” History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacy of documentation”

The divorce, unlike my redundancy a year earlier, has come as a surprise. I am still reeling from the shock, feelings are still raw, senses still numbed. I have moved away, left soon to be ex- wife behind, left my home behind, my daughter, my memories, my cats.

Again a coincidence in timing but Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, in her new collection of poems “The Bees” has penned a short, devastating but beautiful piece :”New Vows” which resonates painfully at a personal level to anyone grieving after a divorce.   

 ” From this day forth to unhold, to see the nothing in ringed gold,uncare for you when you are old…..”http://tinyurl.com/7bgvpfn

I am a baby boomer, I have it all, career, state of the art pension deal, golden retirement beckoning….It doesn’t feel like that.
It is not easy: there is the grief of a lost marriage; a crudely ended career; a difficult reevaluation of one’s first life. A first life that can only be reviewed through one perspective only, a flawed one, your own very subjective personal memory.

Second lives do not flow naturally, they do not cruise along on waves of youthful bloom and zest, they need to be negotiated, bodies cared for and re-invigorated, demons fought and setbacks surmounted. There are ups and downs.

I need to find my voice as a writer and I need to find my voice as a person.
I want to write about my passions, Spain, community and social enterprise, translation, sense of place, home grown local food, and what it’s like to go through a life- changing experience.

 I want to tell my story and that of others who have sat at a table in the last chance saloon and refused to go quietly into the night.

I have started an MA in Professional Writing at University College Falmouth as a significant step towards earning a living in my second life as a writer.

I would like to share my journey through my own personal Indian Summer which coincided with a real one as we entered Autumn this year.
I have not been born again and I have not, yet, transformed my life but I have taken that all important first step.

Don’t wait until New Year’s Day to make that resolution, do it today and change your life….forever!