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Oct
20

The Lure of the Mercadillo

Costa del Sol MercadillosEverybody loves a market!  Ranging from outdoor flea markets to open air food markets, the mercadillos along the Costa del Sol have evolved over the past 30 years from being places where locals bought their fruit and veg to becoming an essential part of life for foreign residents.

Historically, the local markets were where the farmers came to sell their livestock and agricultural produce and, although not typically known as ‘farmers’ markets’ anymore, the most popular ones still have a dazzling array of delicious food items for sale. Today’s markets are a feast for all the senses. They have become a place to appreciate the eclectic mix of cultures, to meet and greet neighbours and friends, to partake in the buzz of local gossip and to soak up the atmosphere.
[Read more…]

Sep
15

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writer's Block GroupAs a freelance journalist and writer the dreaded blank ‘Word’ document is a sight that greets me every day.  Although writing an article for publication via one of the many media outlets lends itself to a different method to writing fiction, writer’s block still hangs over some of us like the proverbial ‘black dog’. The only difference is that if an article or an interview has been commissioned there is, at least, a brief of some sort in place that can trigger the writing process. There will also usually be a deadline that has been set, something that for those of us who write up- to-the-wire is a helpful friend.

Waiting for inspiration to strike can be tortuous. The best tip and the one that works for me is to start writing… anything! Novelist Margaret Atwood summed the procedure up perfectly: “It I waited for perfection I would never write a word.” This technique of ‘write, write, write’ applies to any of the disciplines, whether penning your first masterpiece or composing copy for a blog post. [Read more…]

Nov
11

Granny Envy

Granny envy 1Becoming a grandparent to my now 1 year old grandson was a wonderful thing. Having been one of those sceptics who mocked other grandparents when waxing lyrical about their precious grandchildren, I must eat humble pie and agree that there is nothing to compare with the love you feel for this new member of your family. Previously, being bombarded by photos of babies and toddlers that I had never met and whom I was never likely to, make my skin crawl, however I seem to have joined the cult of proud and boastful grandparents and am only too quick to flash my flip photo album to unappreciative non-grandparent friends. [Read more…]

Nov
08

The Crow Road – Iain Banks

crow road 2The Crow Road by Iain Banks was published in 1992 and subsequently filmed as a mini-series by the BBC. The untimely death at the age of 59 in June 2013 of Banks, the best-selling author of 29 books, prompted me to revisit his work and The Crow Road was one of his novels that I had never previously read.

Born in Dunfermline, Fife, Banks’ novels are inherently Scottish in tone.  In 2008, The Times named Banks as one of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″, but something that I hadn’t realised was that he was also the author of several science fiction novels writing under the name of Iain M. Banks and was described by The Guardian as “the standard by which the rest of SF is judged”. [Read more…]

Oct
21

TED Talks – Ideas Worth Spreading

Do you know about TED Talks?

TEDTED started out in 1984 from an idea by Richard Saul Wurman who wanted to hold a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED). Luminaries such as Bill Gates, Frank Gehry, Al Gore, Billy Graham, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, Quincy Jones, Stephen Hawking, JK Rowling and Bono have spoken on subjects ranging from technology to culture, the environment, science, and social trends.  Each talk is limited to 18 minutes, apparently long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. According to TED curator Chris Anderson it forces speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18 “you get them to really think about what they want to say”.  You can watch a video by Chris Anderson here on ‘What makes a great talk, great’, although at 23 minutes this is not a typical TED Talk! [Read more…]

Oct
14

Dear Daughter – Roy Sheppard

DD groupDear Daughter: What I Wish I’d Known at Your Age by former BBC reporter and media presenter Roy Sheppard is a self-help guide aimed at 15 – 25 year old young women. Roy is also the author of Dear Son: What I Wish I’d Known at Your Age for young men in the same age group.

As well as Roy’s take on ‘what he thinks young women should know’ in his role as a writer and speaker on personal and professional relationships, the book contains articles and insights from a selection of savvy women from all walks of life, both professional and amateur, encompassing a variety of careers and highlighting different viewpoints. [Read more…]

Oct
11

How to Take Criticism

criticism 1You’re a writer and you’ve written a first draft. You’ve nurtured your baby, protected it, loved it but now you are ready to reveal it to others.

It doesn’t matter how or where you produce your baby; you may give a glimpse of it to a friend, read a passage to a tutor, or submit a whole chapter for an online critique. Of course you will be nervous. Of course you want your work to be received well… but are you ready to take the criticism in the manner in which it is meant to be given?

Nobody wants to hear that something which has taken so much agonising over is not perfect. Workshops or writing groups are places where criticism is made in the public domain, so not only do you have to contest with criticism that you may feel unjust, but your emotions are laid bare for all to witness. Writing groups should offer a support network where writers are encouraged and nurtured. Just being around people with the same passion for writing as you have can be stimulating and motivating. [Read more…]

Oct
09

Narrative Point of View

Point of viewWhen you actually start writing the novel that has been fighting to get itself out of your brain and into some form of hard copy, one of the most important questions you must ask yourself is from which point of view will you be telling your story?

There are several different narrative points of view you can choose from:

First person narrative

This is where the narrator uses pronouns such as ‘I’ or ‘we’ rather than ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’. The narrator could be the protagonist, a participant or merely an observer. [Read more…]

Oct
07

The Benefits of Twitter

benefits of twitterIf you think that Twitter is only for celebrities who want to promote something they are working on or who want to get more followers than their fellow celebs, then think again. The benefits of being on Twitter are many, whether for business marketing or personal use.

Why do I like Twitter?

Firstly, I get the news in real time directly from eye-witnesses. Whatever is happening, wherever it may be in the world, someone will be on the ground tweeting about it, very often before any of the media companies are able to cover it. [Read more…]

Oct
04

L. S. Lowry – A Visionary Artist

LowryLaurence Stephen Lowry is one of those artists that have the same effect on your senses as Marmite; you either love him or hate him! There is no doubt that the quintessentially British artist is a household name and that his pictures of northern life are instantly recognisable, although for some he only came into popular recognition through the 1978 UK number one hit single “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs” from British music duo Brian & Michael (who?).  We all remember the song but do we remember who sang it!

Although Lowry is probably Britain’s most popular artist, his work has often been misunderstood.  Not only did he paint the mill towns and cities of the industrial north-west for which he is so famous, but he also produced many soulful landscapes and a number of masterly seascapes which are perhaps his greatest works. [Read more…]