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…..”

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!