The New House – A Christmas Ghost Story

‘Hey, David, call for you. Do you want me to transfer it,’ Kelly called across to the fresh faced, thin young man on the other side of the busy office.

‘Yes please Kelly,’ he replied, ‘Who is it?’

‘Estate Agent I think. Or could be your Solicitor’, she responded as she held the call and dialled his extension before putting her receiver down.

He held his breath for a moment before answering, ‘Hello, David Horrell speaking’.

‘Hi David, Cindy Cable from Cable & Co. Solicitors here.’ He thought Cindy’s voice sounded rather relaxed.

‘Good news I hope’, said David as he nervously pushed his right hand through his thick blond hair .

‘Yes David, it is. I’m pleased to tell you that all the monies are in place and if you want to we can complete as quickly as tomorrow. The benefit of buying a new house with cash when you have no chain behind you is that we can get this sort of transaction completed nice and easily, and especially at this time of year. I’m sure you’ll want to be in before Christmas. Now, can you get yourself over here tomorrow morning? We can get the paperwork done and hopefully, by the afternoon, you’ll have the keys in your hands’. Her voice rose at the end of her sentence as if sharing his excitement at receiving this news.

‘Hey Cindy, that’s excellent’, replied David. ‘Thank you. I’ll just want to see if I can get hold of Lorna. I know it’s all in my name but she needs to know we’ve got it, and I’ll just need to have a word with Bob. He’s my manager here. I did warn him that I might need the time off. But this is great’, He knew that his excitement must have come across to Cindy as she replied by saying, ‘Hey, calm down at that end. I’m sure everything will be fine. Let your manager know and then give Lorna a call. I’ll pencil you in for 9am tomorrow. Just call me back today, before 2pm to confirm and hopefully, I’ll see you tomorrow’, she said.

‘Yes, excellent’, he repeated. ‘I’ll call you back and see you tomorrow’, added David with a feeling of anticipation.

‘That’s ok. I’ll look forward to seeing you then’, she replied before ending her call.

He knew that he had been overheard because Bob called him over.

‘Hey Dave, got the deal on the house then?’ Asked Bob in a manner that belied that he expected a positive reply.

‘Yep, got the house’, he said without making any effort to conceal the joy in his voice.

‘Well, this is it then. Start of the new life for you young man’, said Bob.

Bob was right, it would be the start of a new life. Loosing Grandma had been difficult for David, but she’d been a wealthy woman. She’d always wanted him to be free to follow his dreams and with the agreement of his parents, she had made him the sole beneficiary of her estate. So, at only twenty six years old he’d become quite rich! He felt that he was well prepared for his new found wealth and he’d already drafted a plan for himself in anticipation: One, buy a house; two, marry Lorna; three, become a freelance journalist/ copywriter; four, become a published novelist; and last but not least, buy a football team, his team, Gainsborough Trinity and take them back to the football league. Though he always knew that the last one was only a dream as Grandma’s money would never stretch that far.

‘We’ll miss you’, said Bob. ‘I still think that you’re taking a bit of a risk. You’re very young to go freelance, but I guess that’s what financial independence can do for you. But like I’ve said before, I can farm out a bit of work to you but it’s not guaranteed’.

‘Thank you, still more than I’ve ever asked for’, replied David.

The house was everything David wanted. It was out on the edge of Gainsborough and overlooking open countryside. The fact that a small infill estate would soon be built on the other side of the ancient hedge at the back of the house didn’t worry him. He’d seen the planning details and new that the hedge would be retained and he wouldn’t be affected by a few more four bed detached houses. Even less of a worry were the stories that Bob and the others back at the office had tried to wind him up with about ghosts and supernatural goings on while these new houses were being built. David had always considered myself agnostic. He was never an atheist because quite simply, and in the true sense of agnosticism, he wasn’t quite sure what to believe. He laughed when he saw an article in the local paper, ‘The Standard’ about the ghostly figure of a young girl and a more sinister figure cloaked in black being seen and scaring the living daylights out of a couple of brickies. Lorna wasn’t impressed either and she appeared to be more sceptical than he was.

David set his study up at the back of the house. He purposely placed his desk at a right angle to the window so that he wouldn’t be distracted by the view of the garden and the birds that flitted around the feeders that Lorna had carefully hung in the hedge. But he was finding it difficult to concentrate. Whether it was the relative isolation of his quiet semi-rural location or the amount of work he had he wasn’t sure. Bob had kept his promise, but two assignments a week wouldn’t fill his time, nor pay the bills, that is if he really needed the money. But he had to admit that on several occasions an odd sense of a passing shadow accompanied by the feeling of being watched came over him. But each time he looked around as if expecting to see someone, there was nothing there.

The following morning he found himself looking into the forlorn winter garden at the back of his house, coffee in hand and feeling at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. The grey leaden sky threatened snow. He felt a shiver and then he saw something, behind the hedge. Someone, something was there and then a moment later, he heard the roar of an engine starting and the familiar shape of a digger passing by.

‘Ha,’ he thought to himself with a sense of relieve and watched the digger start on clearing and levelling the land behind the hedge for the new houses.

That evening Lorna and David talked about his work and decided that he should stop waiting for Bob’s occasional assignments and instead, he should start to promote his own work through a new website. So after Lorna had left for work on the next morning, David found himself setting up a collage of the adverts he’d designed when a distinct shadow passed across the wall. It wasn’t a sunny day and as he quickly looked round to the garden he expected to see the digger moving behind the hedge, but instead, there, in the garden he saw her. A young girl, perhaps eight or nine year’s old standing with her back to him and facing the hedge. A cascade of blond curly hair fell down her back and over a long white crumpled dress that went down to just above her ankles. She must have been wearing some sort of apron or pinafore as he could see a number of cotton ties down her back. He got up from his chair and for a moment, he just stood and stared. He reached forward to knock on the window but as he did so, his phone rang. He turned back to his desk to pick it up and then turned back to the window, and she was gone. The garden was empty.

‘Hello, David Horrell speaking’, he said, only to be greeted with the buzz of a dead line.

He looked at the phone, the screen read ‘unknown caller’.

When Lorna came home that evening she sensed that he wasn’t his usual self.

She asked him what was wrong, so he told her about his strange experience.

‘Either someone messing around, or more likely you’re working too hard’, she told him in a firm and rational tone. Then she laughed and said, ‘Perhaps one of those workmen from behind the hedge has got long blond curly hair.’

By Thursday he’d all but forgotten the incident. Suddenly the amount of work had picked up. I’d had no end of responses to the emails he’d sent out asking old contacts to look at his new website, and he found himself busy in his study again until, just like it had happened on the previous Tuesday, a deep dark shadow passed across the wall. He looked to his right and into the garden and there she was again, in the same pose and the same clothes, with her back to him and blonde locks cascading down her back. As he stood there, he had to hold the table to prevent myself from falling as the shock of what he saw next almost overcame him. From the hedge a larger, ominous shadow began to emerge and form into a cloaked and hooded figure looking down at the girl. He saw her begin to look up at the figure and just had happened on the first occasion, his phone rang. Without taking his eyes off the developing scenes in the garden he reached back to his desk and picked up his phone.

‘Hello’, he answered, barely able to get the word out. ‘Who’s there? Who’s there?’ he asked.

This time, through the buzz of interference he heard a voice, the voice of a little girl.

‘Help. Help me’, she said.

He almost fell forwards into the window in a feint and holding his left palm to the window he asked in reply, ‘Who is it? Is it you, in the garden?’

At that moment the girl began to turn towards him and the hooded figure began to raise its head to look at him as well. The little girls face was so pale, pallid and grey. The saddest face he’d ever seen. But the last thing he remember at that moment was looking into the hood of the cloaked figure and seeing nothing, just a deep dark blackness with no form of a head or face.

‘David? David?’ He heard Lorna say his name as if it was a question.

She pressed the alarm button by the hospital bed and then jumping up, she leapt into the corridor and shouted, ‘Nurse, Doctor, come quick please. I think he’s awake!’

‘Uh, what, err what do you mean, I err’, stammered David. ‘Where am I?’ He asked her.

‘You’re in hospital. In Gainsborough, the John Coupland’, Lorna replied.

‘You’ve been unconscious. Almost like a coma, for a week. I thought you were going to die’. She choked on her words and sobbed.

After he’d been examined, she told him how she’d got a strange feeling that something wasn’t right and wanted to call him, but that he didn’t answer the phone and rather than getting his answerphone, she just got a dead line tone. She told him how when she got home, she found him, unconscious in a pool of blood with the study windows smashed in and glass scattered all around him. The Police had told her that it must have been an attempted robbery and that perhaps David had scarred them of as nothing appeared to have been taken.

Within the next twenty four hours David recovered rapidly and he also began to remember. When Lorna came to visit in the afternoon, she immediately said, ‘You’ll never guess what, those workmen on the other side of the hedge. They found human remains, the skeleton of a girl’s body!’

The house is still on the market at a very reasonable price for such a prime location.

© Duncan Lapping 2014

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Supporting The Robins 1967/68

Back in November 2014 I published the first in an occassional series of articles about Ilkeston Town Football Club, with the main focus being on the turning of the turnstiles and with an emphasis on attendances. The first article looked at the 1994/95 season after the club had been promoted to the Southern League Midland Division.

This next article ia about the 1967/68 season, one which turned out to be a true highlight in the history of the club.

In 1967 English football was still on a high from the national team’s world cup victory in the previous year. On top of that, a British team had won the European Cup for the first time, with a Celtic team made up exclusively of players born within thirty miles of Glasgow, lifting the trophy in Lisbon on the 25th May after beating the famous Inter Milan. The year also saw the birth of Adrian Chiles on the 21st March, now famously your, ‘friendly bloke down the pub who likes to talk football’, TV presenter.
Ilkeston Town continued to ply their trade in the Midland Counties League as they had done since the 1961/62 season. The 1966/67 season had gradually faded into obscurity for the club, seeing them knocked out of the Derbyshire Senior Cup at the semi-final stage by New Mills and eventually finishing tenth in the league. But one item of significance that did occur was the introduction of the all red strip to replace the previous white shirts and black shorts and thus, Ilkeston Town became ‘The Robins’.
So while the 1967/68 season couldn’t have started with any great expectations for Ilkeston Town supporters, they still came in good numbers, certainly by today’s standards, to support the club. And they were to find that as the season developed, their support would be well rewarded.
The season started with a home fixture and 1:1 draw with Arnold FC on 19th August and an attendance of 992. This was followed by an attendance of 1,032 for the next home fixture, against Stamford on the 26th August with the crowd witnessing another 1:1 draw. Perhaps the propensity to draw games had an effect, as for the next two home games the attendances dropped to 802 (another 1:1 draw, this time against Loughborough United) and then 752, as they lost 1:0 to Gainsborough Trinity. The attendance picked up, somewhat predictably, for the next home fixture with 1,209 turning up to witness a 1:0 victory over local rivals, Heanor Town.
Despite the normal standard of excellent reporting of games in the Ilkeston Advertiser, the paper did not always list the attendance and so my record of attendances for the season is not complete. The Advertiser did however, run a regular, ‘Midland League Post Mortem’ column to keep readers up to date with results for other teams in the league and in that column on 15th September they also published attendances for the other teams. The figures illuminate how well the ‘Robins’ were supported in comparison to some of the ‘big’ teams of the league. The highest attendance recorded on the previous weekend had been the 1,750 who had watched Scarborough (who eventually joined the football league in 1987). The next best supported teams were Gainsborough Trinity and Grimsby Town Reserves with 1,206 and 1,200 respectively, not dissimilar to what Ilkeston could expect for a ‘big’ game like the one against Heanor. At the other end of the scale were two other Derbyshire teams, Belper Town with 470 and Long Eaton United with 306.
The club were doing moderately well, both on the pitch and with attendances, as they approached their home fixture with league leaders Scarborough, on the 4th November. A crowd of 862 saw them win the game 1:0. The next key point came just short of a month later when on the 2nd December, 840 witness a 3:1 victory over Worksop Town that sent the Robins to the top of the league!
But it was not all plain sailing for Ilkeston Town. On the 6th January, in their first fixture of 1968, they were humiliated by losing 1:0 away at second bottom Stamford were the attendance was 300.
In the away fixture at Grantham on 27th January, Ilkeston’s Mick Wyld was attacked by a spectator from the crowd of 1,184 and needed to receive Police assistance, apparently after he’d committed a bad tackle early on for which he was jeered by the Grantham fans for most of the game.
Attendances at the Manor Ground continued to hold up well in the early part of 1968 with crowds of no less than the 710 who turned up to the home fixture against Goole on the 10th February. Of significant interest on the same day however, was the attendance of 2,298 reported in the Advertiser, for Eastwood’s home FA Amateur Cup tie against Wealdstone, who were top of the Isthmian League at the time. The game was a 1:1 draw and Eastwood took their illustrious opponents to a third replay before being knocked out of the competition.
But for the people of Ilkeston the Robins remained the centre of attention and the players put the club back in the title race 3:0 victory away at Sutton Town on the 30th March in front of 475.
Excitement was starting to build and was reflected in the four figure attendances for the home games against Alfreton on the 15th April – 1,218, and Long Eaton on the 27th April with 1,401 coming to that fixture, that being the highest home attendance for a league game that season..
The Robins were to clinch the league title in the away fixture at Gainsborough on the 4th May. Gainsborough Trinity where themselves in with an outside chance of winning the league and this must have helped to secure the attendance of 1,353 at their Northolme ground. But the real highlight from the attendance point of view came in the two legs of the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final against Heanor with 4,041 attending the Ilkeston leg on the 1st May and 4,093 at the Town Ground, Heanor on 8th May. Unfortunately, the Robins were not to make it a league and cup double as they lost 4:2 on aggregate to Heanor, but they were Champions of the Midland Counties League for the first and only time in the clubs history.
While the Advertisers reporting of attendances was a bit hit and miss, they did provide an end of season report quoting an overall attendance of 18,480 for home matches, giving an average of 924, this being almost double the previous seasons average of 500. They had five gates of more than 1,000. The lowest attendance of the season at the Manor Ground was 695 for the Lockheed Leamington Fixture on 30th September 1967, with the highest being the excellent 4,093 for the Heanor game on the 1st May 1968.

This article was first published in the January 2015 edition of ‘The Flying Robin’, the magazine of the Ilkeston Football Club Supporters Group on 14th January 2015 and is copyright to Duncan Lapping.

Counting Out Time

The final assignment for the ‘Start Writing Fiction’ course was to write a short story with a 1000 word limit. The intention was to base the story on a central character and use the techniques and methods learned through the course such as the development and portrayal of characters and the introduction of conflict to develop plot. As the assignment was for a very short story it would probably work best if it had only have one or two other characters alongside the main one.

So here it is:

Counting Out Time

I looked at Dad lying in bed. It was like he had already gone and been laid out, but the slight snore of his shallow breathing proved that he was still with us. His wisp of sandy hair and the grey pallor of the loose skin that hung from his cheek bones contrasted to that of the red headed, firm faced young man in the photograph by his bedside. One feature had remained steady through time, his eyes. Those deep dark brown absorbing eyes, now hidden behind those grey eye lids. The blue suit worn in the photo still hung in the wardrobe in the corner of the room. The beautiful young dark haired woman, his wife, my mother, in her long flowing white wedding dress was long gone but her memory was held steady in time for me by two things, one being the photo’s around the house. But that photo, that was my favourite, and his. We looked alike, that could have been me in the photo, but it wasn’t. It was him.
Next to the bedside photo a small alarm clock ticked along with the grandfather clock out on the landing stairs and all the other clocks, at least one in every room of the house. Every-one of them ticking away, counting out time.
I heard soft footsteps on the landing and Ginny came into the room. Apart from the photo’s it was Ginny that reminded me of mum, or perhaps gave me an impression of what I would have wanted mum to be. Her long flowing dark hair, light emerald eyes, soft calm voice and a perfectly reasoned response for every situation. Ginny was five years older than me and for the last twenty years had been more like a mother than mum herself might have been.
‘How is he? Any change?’ she asked.
I was about to reply to the negative when a weak, but instantly recognizable voice rasped, ‘Don’t talk about me, like I’m not here anymore, Ginny.’
‘Dad,’ we both exclaimed together!
‘Yes, still here, for the moment,’ he said, faltering for breath between each brief sentence.
‘Dad, do you need some oxygen? Jed, get the mask.’ Ginny told me.
A tall oxygen cylinder stood by the bed. I took the mask and placed it gently over his nose and mouth, gently turning the valve to release the precious gas into his desperate lungs. After a few moments he appeared to breath more evenly and he pushed my hand and the mask away from his face. ‘Ginny, can you leave, me and your brother, for a while. Please?’ He asked. His sentences were broken with a gasp like pause between every few words.
‘Ok dad’, she replied, ‘But don’t go upsetting each other you two. I’ll just be outside on the landing if you need me.’
‘Don’t worry, no time for rows,’ said Dad.
‘Dad, I don’t want to cause you any more trouble,’ I added.
‘I know son, I know,’ he said.
Ginny turned and cast glances at us both as she left the room. She looked more specifically at me and mouthed, ‘Just out on the landing. Call me if you need me.’
After Ginny had gone Dad finally opened his eyes and turned to look at me. He tried to breath as deeply as he could before saying in a more steady tone, ‘I’ve wanted to talk to you for a long time son, about so much, and now it’s too late.’
‘No Dad, we’ll have time’’ I tried to interrupt, but he carried on as if I hadn’t spoken. ‘I’m afraid that we, sorry I, have wasted too much time. I don’t want you to be doing the same.’ He paused before carrying on. ‘We both know, really, I’ve not got much time. I thought I’d made the most of what I had. Every hour. Every minute. Even counting the seconds while doing things. But I’ve just been, counting out time, and been leaving you out of my time. I’m so sorry Son. I’ve wasted the time, the time that I could have spent, spent with you Son. All those years, Son. After Jen, your mum went. I thought that by using all my time, by filling it with work, jobs, hobbies, activity, that I’d get by. I counted out time on everything. Do you know that three minutes is one hundred and eighty seconds. And if you count to three hundred, that’s five minutes, you’ve wasted. Counting out time, when I could, could have been talking to you, Son. And all these damned clocks. Promise me you’ll get rid of them. Promise me Jed, get rid of the lot of them. Trying, to manage, my time, but throwing it away on counting out time.’
I looked at Dad and felt a tear begin to form slowly in my left eye.
‘Dad, please don’t get upset,’ I replied. ‘I’ve wasted time too. The number of times I’ve said, ‘Oh, must give Dad a call’, and haven’t.’
His breathing had become more laboured and so I reached for the mask to give him more oxygen, but this time he pushed me away before I was able to get the mask onto his face.
‘Too late Son, too late. Your mum told me, she’d come to get me when I was ready. Those were her last words.’ He paused and looked away from me to the closed door. ‘Jen? Jennifer is that you?’ he asked.
He lifted his left arm as if reaching out and for a moment I saw a brief shadow fall across his face as he smiled, turned his head, and exhaled his last breath.
‘Gin, Ginny,’ I cried. She was in the room before I’d finished calling for her.
‘He’s gone,’ I choked.
‘I know’, she said, ‘I know’, she repeated before saying. ‘Haven’t you noticed. All the clocks have stopped.’
She was right. For the first time in twenty years the house was silent.

© Duncan Lapping 2014

Supporting The Robins 1994-95

This article was first published in the November 2014 edition of ‘The Flying Robin’, the magazine of the Ilkeston Football Club Supporters Group on 27th October 2014 and is copyright to Duncan Lapping.

Football in Ilkeston has a reputation for always having been reasonably well attended for the level it’s been played at. For a town the size of Ilkeston to have supported its football team with an attendance of 9,592 against Peterborough United in the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup in November 1955 is quite remarkable. This is a record that remains to this day and can never be beaten given the size of the New Manor Ground.
In this occasional series, seasons from the past will be looked at primarily from the perspective of the turning of the turnstiles and with an emphasis on attendances.
Twenty years ago in 1994, Ilkeston Town had joined the Southern League Midland Division after finishing as champions of the West Midlands Regional League Premier Division in the 1993/94 season and winning a much deserved promotion.
The 1994/95 season was a great success for Ilkeston Town FC both through the turnstiles and on the pitch, starting with the team beating Nuneaton Borough 4:2 at home in front of an excellent first match attendance of 775.
The quality of the Robins home support soon shone through when compared to the attendances of some of their Southern League rivals. For example, in their home games against Ilkeston, Sutton Coldfield attracted 209, Bilston Town had 120 and Bridgnorth Town drew in 207. Clearly, Ilkeston Town were one of the best supported teams in this division. There would only be three occasions during that season were they would play away games in the league attended by crowds of more than what would be Ilkeston’s home average of 517 for league games. These were the games at Newport (who would finish as league champions), with 1130, Nuneaton, 1240 and Tamworth (who would finish third in the league) with 926.
However, it was in the FA Trophy that things really took off for the Robins both on and off the pitch.
The Trophy run began with a 1:0 home win against Hinckley Town in front of a modest crowd of 361, but not bad for a Monday night game (yes we had them in those days too, albeit as rare occasions back then). This was a replay with the preceding game having been a 3:3 thriller at Hinckley in front of only 103 spectators. The next round saw Ilkeston drawn at home to Leicester United, who they comfortably dispatched with a convincing 6:1 win in front of 481. The Robins were then drawn to play away against Paul Gascoigne’s former team, Dunstan Federated Brewery’s up in Geordie land. And in front of 163 they came away with a 3:2 victory to take them into the draw for the first round proper. They found themselves drawn out to play Winsford United at home and in front of a crowd of 427 they got a 4:2 victory. Now things began to get really tasty with a difficult draw away to Conference side Welling United. Yet the Robins were not to be overawed by their higher level opponents and they brought them back to the New Manor Ground with a 1:1 draw in front of 727 people at Welling’s park View ground.
The Ilkeston public saw that the club could be on the verge of a bit of non-league giant killing here and the 1,280 who turned up for the replay on yet another Monday night game were not disappointed as the Robins took the game to Welling and came out with a 3:0 win.
The third round draw pitched Ilkeston against Kidderminster Harriers who had been Conference champions in 1994, only to have been denied promotion to the Football League due to new fire regulations (they had a wooden stand) introduced after the disaster of the Bradford stadium fire.
The town was struck with cup fever and a New Manor Ground record crowd of 2,349 were in attendance to see the goals from Jason Campbell and Dave Harbottle that would give them a much deserved draw. Two days later in yet another Monday night cup replay, the Trophy run came to an end with a 2:1 defeat at Kidderminster’s Aggborough stadium in front of 1,634.
But the Robins continued to excel on the pitch and an emphatic 7:1 victory on 2nd May 1995, cheered on by another wonderful home attendance of 1,454, gave them runners up spot and automatic promotion to the Southern League Premier Division.
In total, 17,452 people made their way through the New Manor Ground turnstiles in the 1994/95 season with an average home attendance across all competitions of 582. The lowest attendance was 261 for a league cup game that was lost to Bilston Town, but the highest attendance was of course the then record gate of 2,349 against Kidderminster Harriers.

© Duncan Lapping 2014

Start writing fiction course

I started this (and another) blog as a result of participating in the Future Learn (OU) Start Writing Fiction course in October 2014.

I fell behind with the original timings for the course but completed it last night (Sat 27th Dec) and treated myself to the extravagance of ordering a certificate of completion. I plan to frame it and put it up in the study!

I think that doing this course was one of the best things that I could have done to stimulate my interest in writing – not just fiction, but writing in general.

The expected commitment is three hours per week over eight weeks but for me, and to do the course justice, it needed a lot more – at least six to seven hours a week. My job in the real world was a barrier to the fulfilment of the course as a demanding, yet thoroughly desirable hobby. An exacting and time consuming job with a long daily commute of at least two hours on the road does take its toll and makes it difficult to find the time to study and write.

But the course has led to me keeping a journal; several new short stories; a developing library of character descriptions; two blogs; and a great sense of achievement.

I’d thoroughly recommend the Future Learn (OU) Start Writing Fiction course to anyone with an emerging interest in writing fiction. I really have enjoyed it.

Getting Started

Back in September 2014 I read two articles that both encouraged and confounded my ambitions to write.

So far, I have achieved one short story – that still may become a short novel (a novella?) if the second and third parts that are stuck in my head, rather than on the page, can be released into print.

I have a half written book about the death of a football club and the emergence of a phoenix club to replace it. The story, part biography, part fact and much opinion, is short on interviews with key players in the process of the new club being created along with photographs to help the narrative.

Other ideas remain as well, just ideas – so rather than being exposed here, they’ll remain were they are for the moment, waiting for their time and opportunity with the hope of characters, that are merely embryonic at the moment and needing an appropriate gestation before they can emerge as fully fledged personalities to be written.

But what of the two articles? In the hope of ending with a positive, I can first refer to the negative, a review in The Observer newspaper of a novel by the journalist, Andrew Marr. The writer is described as a man of many talents but no novelist. What I know of Mr Marr is his career as a political commentator and his frequent appearances on the BBC. But I also know of his health. The much publicised stroke and his recovery. And so I can understand his desire to write. If he has a story to tell, then why not write it down. And given his background and profile, I’m sure that he’s got plenty of source material to rely on. I am also sure that the opportunity to find a publisher was not a problem. I have not read Andrew Marr’s novel and probably never will, but in wanting to have a go at writing myself I can appreciate the effort and dedication through which it was achieved. So I am left questioning whether we have the right to be so critical, and wondering why criticism of one who has tried can potentially affect others who want to try, but may be put off before they even start.

But despite that, I’ve been positively encouraged by the Guardians, ‘Do Something’ September supplement. To do something creative one of the suggestions is, ‘How to write a bestselling novel’, with particular hints on; how to get started; make it a daily habit; silence your inner critic; find an image to inspire you; look for ‘What if’s’; hone your narrative, and finally; push on!

So have I begun my daily habit? Some say 15 minutes per day (Dorothea Brand) others just 7 minutes, because it’s achievable (Philippa Pride).

This piece has taken me 30 minutes. Rather than overdoing it, I’d like to think that the time I’ve taken proves a passion (to myself) and so helps to silence my inner critic and that I have been given strength by reading that negative book review.