Song writing season… some reflections

This is my song writing time of year. I’m writer in residence for the Da Capo Music Foundation and we’re in the run-up to the annual summer school which always features a new suite of songs – music by composer in residence John Ashton Thomas, words by me. I’ve just finished this year’s lyrics, and I’ve been reflecting on what this exercise involves, and what it teaches me about writing more generally.

It’s an unusual task in many ways. Where most songs are pre-existing text set to music, here the music comes first Continue reading “Song writing season… some reflections”

St Joseph’s School Poetry Week

I was delighted to be invited back to St Joseph’s school to take part in their poetry week on Wednesday. I had a great time meeting year 5 and year 6, talking to them about poetry, books and writing, and sharing some poems…

A poem I found floating on the canal (the names of boats)

Two hoots, Wellington!
Footloose, Mathilda Mae!
Bob’s your uncle, Talisker!
We used to make things
Spick-and-span and Prosper
Just Helen
Violet May
Bonnie three
And Serafina


A poem I loved when I was young…

Overheard on a Salt Marsh by H Munro

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me. Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man’s fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in a deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.


Almost a poem: the naming of colours

I was in Cambridge today for an event with the Skylark Literary Agency (discussing children’s writing in general and an early draft of my new novel in particular). While I was there, I dropped into the Fitzwilliam Museum which currently has an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts. Vivid, burnished, brilliant: they are a glorious collection… And I found myself equally entranced by the names of the colours that their makers had used.

Red lead
Red earths and ochres
Brown earths: siennas and umbers
Armenian cochineal
Root of the rubia tinctorum
Murex shell
Gold leaf
Shell gold
Silver leaf
Mosaic gold
Gypsum and red bole
Yellow earths and ochres
Lead tin yellow
Lead white

Isn’t that a luscious list?!

Libraries past and future

In the village-becoming-a-suburb where I grew up, there were two school buildings. The ‘Old School’ – a solid early 1900s red brick building with high rooms and high windows – had been outgrown by the expanding population, and I did my primary school time in the new school (a sort of flat-pack late 60s construction: our teachers used to mutter that it would fall down long before the Old School did, though as far as I know it’s still going strong). Continue reading “Libraries past and future”