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Newsletter – July 2019

Welcome to the monthly newsletter of author Tim Walker. This month he has no news, and so will handover to two excellent guests…

Welcome guest author, Michael Pearcy – Mike has been a fan of George Orwell for many years. He has just completed a play called Mrs Orwell which was long listed for in the Kenneth Branagh Playwriting awards. He is working on a one-man show which will explore significant moments in Orwell’s life.

Mike’s plays have been performed in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Gibraltar and Singapore. There have been many performances in the UK including The Union Theatre in Southwark where The Gatekeeper’s True Religion was described by Time Out magazine as ‘…a unique gem’.

His short stories have won awards in various festivals and competitions including the Berkshire Arts Festival and the Woman’s Own short story competition.

As a journalist Mike has covered many and varied subjects ranging from Charles Dickens living in Slough with his young lover, to the story behind the making of the film The King’s Speech.  In his non-fiction writing he is able to combine his experience as a professional photographer with his writing.  Mike is a member of Slough Writers’ Group – check his WEBSITE for more information.

Nineteen Eight-Four – The Novel That Killed George Orwell

By Michael Pearcy

This year is the seventieth anniversary of Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s landmark dystopian novel which hit the bookshops on 8th June 1949 – only seven months before he died from tuberculosis, a disease which had haunted him most of his adult life.

No one can say for sure when he contracted TB but the research he undertook for two of his early books put him in regular contact with the highly infectious disease – tuberculosis killed one in seven people before a successful treatment using streptomycin was developed shortly after Orwell died in 1950.

In fact, Orwell’s close friend David Astor, a friend and editor of The Observer, had the drug flown in from America especially for Orwell, but although he made a temporary recovery, the side effects of this early version of the drug prevented further use.  

Although Orwell went to Eton on a scholarship, when he finished there he was not considered bright enough to justify the cost of Oxford or Cambridge which would have been the usual route for someone from his background.

Instead he signed up as an officer with the Imperial Police and selected a posting to Burma where he had lived for the first year of his life. This decision may have been prompted by his father who had been in the Indian Civil Service in the Opium Department.

He resigned after five years and settled in London where he intended to become a writer. Influenced by the author Jack London he decided to investigate the living conditions of the poor in East London which led to his first published Essay The Spike (New Adelphi magazine 1931).

Following this theme, he lived for periods as a homeless man and claimed to have perfected a working-class accent which, apparently, his new companions accepted. In this way he was able to live with tramps (homeless people) in what were known as Spikes (homeless shelters). He also spent time living rough with a group of tramps on their journey to get paid work picking hops in Kent.

After a further period living on the margins of society in Paris he had collected enough material for his first published book: Down and Out In Paris and London published in 1933 by Victor Gollancz.

This success led to publication of Orwell’s Burmese Days (Harper & Brothers 1934) which gave a frank and critical view of the Empire’s oppression and exploitation of the peoples of Burma. He was beginning to carve out a niche for himself as a young writer.

From his very first night in a Spike, Orwell would have known the risks he was taking in exposing himself to tuberculosis. But the only way he could write the truth was to first live that truth. And perhaps this was also the beginning of his personal journey as a socialist.

His dedication to research continued when he lived with coal miners and their families in North-East England in order to write The Road to Wigan Pier (Victor Gollancz 1937)first published in 1937. The first half of the book documents the bleak living conditions amongst the working class in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the terrible working conditions of the men who essentially provided the fuel which powered the nation – coal.

In the second half of the book Orwell discusses the failures of socialism to rescue workers from the worst forms of exploitation. In this passage he declares himself in favour of socialism. This leads him to question British attitudes towards socialism and attack middle class socialists: ‘In addition to this there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.’

In 1936 he volunteered to fight with the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. As a writer he could have observed the war from a safe hotel in Barcelona with the rest of the press corps. But Orwell went to the front-line trenches and took part in hand to hand combat as a member of the POUM anarchist militia. He meant to join the International Brigade but joined the POUM almost by accident.

This accident was to earn him the experience of living for a period in what he saw as a microcosm of a socialist society where there was no hierarchy, no deference to class and everything was achieved through agreement.

Wanting to be in the thick of it earnt him a fascist bullet in the throat which came within a few millimetres of ending his life. His experiences in Spain equipped him to write Homage to Catalonia (Secker and Warburg) published in 1938.

In Spain he also experienced the dark side of socialism as practised by the communist groups in their suppression of any alternative socialist parties. This reflects what became his major and possibly his over-riding opposition to all forms of totalitarianism expressed through any aspect of political ideology – left, right or centre.

By the beginning of World War Two, at the age of thirty-six, Orwell had established himself as a brave socio/political writer with the publication of four ground-breaking non-fiction books. He had also tried his hand at fiction with three novels – A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) and Coming Up for Air (1939) all published by Victor Gollancz.

Towards the end of his life Orwell instructed that the first two of these novels should not be reprinted which is harsh self-criticism luckily ignored by his literary executors. But a salient fact of life for Orwell was that his writing, despite growing recognition in literary circles, was not earning a decent living for him. His income came mainly from constant article writing for left-wing magazines and newspapers.

Orwell married Eileen O’Shaughnessy on June 9th 1936 and they lived a frugal life until the publication of Animal Farm (Secker and Warburg)in 1945. This was a thinly disguised critique of Russian communism made at a time when the post-war world was ready for it, especially in America where the novel was a storming success. Orwell had finally earned himself space and time to write and he could afford to put a stop to all the time-consuming political articles and essays.

He turned his attention to what was to become his defining work – Nineteen Eighty-Four (Secker and Warburg). This was to be the full expression of his life-long opposition to any totalitarian regime. If Animal Farm can be said to show the dangers in the Russian communist version of socialism, Nineteen Eighty-Four explores the dangers of world divisions and an extreme totalitarian society.

Although this period was to be the peak of Orwell the writer, it was also a sad time for Orwell personally. In 1945 his wife Eileen died during an operation to remove cancer tumours.

And his constant companion, the old enemy tuberculosis was standing by to claim him as another victim.

Animal Farm had been a struggle to write and a bigger struggle to publish partly because Russia was a wartime ally and the government wanted Orwell silenced. Mainstream publishers were either scared of such a radical project or simply failed to understand it. At one point, Orwell was making plans to self-publish until Secker and Warburg finally took on the challenge.

Now Orwell was ready to tackle Nineteen Eighty-Four. But his health was failing fast. The stress of publishing Animal Farm followed by the loss of Eileen just a few months after they had adopted Richard, their only child, left George weakened and vulnerable.

After several months in a sanatorium he decided to give up his London life and move to a cottage in Scotland – Barnhill on the remote island of Jura, twenty-five miles from the nearest telephone. He felt this would give him fresh air, ward off TB and the solitude he needed to complete Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The original plan was to go to Jura with Eileen and she had done much of the planning that made the move possible. In the event, Orwell was accompanied by his son Richard, then four years old, his sister Avril Blair as housekeeper and Bill Dunn who would run the smallholding that would produce some of their food.

Now Orwell was able to focus on his novel. Life on Jura was hard especially in the post-war era of food shortages. And Orwell would not let the threat of TB stop him from enjoying time with Richard – even to the point where they both nearly drowned on one of their regular fishing outings.

It was a race to finish the manuscript before Orwell was forced to give in to the effects of his TB. He was struggling with the disease as he worked to type up his final manuscript. In the isolation of Jura it was not possible to employ a typist but even if it had been, Orwell was the only person who could interpret his countless corrections, except of course for Eileen.

By the time the MS was with the publisher, Secker and Warburg, George Orwell was exhausted. He went first to a hospital near Glasgow but eventually moved to Cranham Sanatorium in Gloucestershire.

Orwell received his first copy of his novel in June 1949. Shortly after this he was moved to University College Hospital in London where he died at the end of January 1950. Despite his valiant efforts he could do no more than make plans for another book but no notes exist of what this could have been.

George Orwell could not have guessed that his final work would come to be such a world-wide success but maybe something in him knew that writing it was worth risking his life. When he should have been in hospital fighting TB he stayed at his keyboard dedicated to completing his novel. 

Eileen had been a vital contributor to Orwell’s work. During the planning and writing of Animal Farm she collaborated closely and even acquired the nickname Pig presumably after Napoleon the pig who emerges as the leader at Animal Farm after the rebellion; Eileen’s attributes that led to her being associated with a character based on Joseph Stalin can only be guessed.

In her youth, Eileen wrote a poem called 1984 and it has been suggested that her dystopian view of the future resonated with George Orwell and that the book’s title is in memory of Eileen. The original draft title was Last Man In Europe and the general consensus is that the final title is a reversal of 1948 the year when the book was first completed.

Maybe so, but the idea that Eileen as loving wife and collaborator is commemorated in the title of her husband’s greatest work is very appealing.

SOURCES

George Orwell – A life by Bernard Crick (Secker and Warburg)

The Girl From The Fiction Department – A Portrait of Sonia Orwell by Hilary Spurling (Hamish Hamilton)

The Lost Orwell by Peter Davison (Timewell Press)

George Orwell English Rebel by Robert Colls (Oxford University Press)

Churchill and Orwell – The Fight For Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks (Duckworth Overlook).

Welcome to Poet’s Corner, Joseph Campling. – He moved from the New Town of Bracknell to the famous town of Slough to train as a nurse in the mid 1980’s. During that period, he had to mature from one of life’s innocents into the man he is now (whatever that is!!) Having worked initially within an operating theatre as a scrub nurse, he then re-qualified as a mental health nurse and has worked in various roles ranging from older people with dementia to younger people with serious mental health issues. Whilst undertaking his BSc, he was one of three co-authors of an article which was published in a professional journal in 2007.

As a child he was a voracious reader and started writing poems at the age of nine – one about scarecrows and another about a woman being swallowed by a crocodile while still having her handbag on her arm. He developed a love of English language and literature at school and continued to write poems as ideas came to him.

From 2010 he found himself scribbling his thoughts down on bits of paper, envelopes, mobile phone which thanks to ‘new technology’ he was able to keep safe.  At the age of 50, he discovered open mic, but due to having the singing voice of a frog being strangled and the guitar skills to match, he resorted to reading out some of this saved work.               

In May 2017 he self- published “Mild Musings May Mitigate My Mentality” which was his first collection of poems and having learned from the process has published another volume of ‘words’ “Merring or is it Mrs Gren.”  The title came from a conversation which the author had with his daughter about a mnemonic to remember the seven signs of life.

Outside writing and performing, his interests include history, watching live music, trying to play the guitar (still project in progress) and quizzing. He also likes to watch TV; mostly factual documentaries, comedy and quiz shows. He also ‘hangs out’ with members of the local drama club which is his children and wife’s passion, although he has no plans to act .He also needs to read more and swears that he will do so very soon as he has a pile of books to read. He follows rugby and can sometimes be found cheering his team on (London Irish) whether they win or lose.  He also has a passion for Liverpool Football Club.

BUY LINK – Merring or Is it Mrs Gren?

BUY LINK – Mild Musings May Mitigate Mentality

REAL LIFE SOAP

The vast opera of my life explodes

As the prima donna wants to take the stage

She is projected as some blond Valkyrie

Expounding Wagnerian hymns and arias

I mentality hear the words “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings”

Well from now on I’m on a diet

I need to keep away from the slippery slope

That my love is sliding over

The fantasy that I can change is false

I played the role that I was given

I remember the audition the casting couch

Now I feel that I don’t know the words or the actions

No direction no script

I could hide in plain sight like a chameleon

Some know I am there, but I believe that I am invisible

You can walk on by -get on with life

You still do not see it right before your eyes

Even if you looked you would stop caring

You ignore the chaos left like the running of metaphorical bulls

Be careful as the two worlds which you inhabit collide

As you explore all my vocal expressions through the din

Lies you say- lies!!  As the tapestry of my being is ripped to shreds

ADDICT

I need my daily fix- I cannot survive

I don’t know what I’m going to do- it makes me feel alive

I open the foil and inhale the odours

To check on the quality that the guy had sold us

I turn on the heat- get out the spoon

Check the time is opportune

I look around to check I’m alone

As for this transgression I’ll have to atone

The wife says I’ve got no willpower

I’ll not last more than a few hours

It’ll involve trawling the streets

To score some of my favourite treats

I have tried to go cold turkey

Giving up has made my thoughts murky

I think of the positives of being abstinent

From this body contaminant

I set up the paraphernalia

A reminder of my abject failure

To kick the habit of this stuff

I know that I am finding it tough

I had to go to a dealer on a street corner

Was this the produce of some foreign farmer?

It was imported for the British market

Advertised as one of their best harvests

I measure out the right amount

It been so long to do without

Some brown sugar for you and me

The best way to enjoy coffee

Newsletter – June 2019

AUTHOR NEWS…. Arthur Dux Bellorum e-book price promotion is running from 1st – 5th June – download your copy now!

Kindle & Paperback Link i-books, kobo, nook, other link
Welcome to Poet’s Corner… ANNA JONES

A founder member of the Herschel Arms Writers, Anna Jones is a creative producer, writer and theatre maker – connecting words & images, places & people to create art, ideas & change. 

Her place-based work explores heritage and how people respond and resonate with their local history today. She discovers, celebrates and shares stories from her home & work place of Slough & surrounds and her heart & roots place of Dartmoor & Devon.

Please see a selection of Anna’s poetry on The Innerverse YouTube channel. Please check out her website

Caroline charts the story of 18th century Slough based astronomer Caroline Herschel. The piece featured in an Arts Council commissioned play written by Anna and performed in her house in Upton Road where the Herschel family once lived. It was selected to be performed at the opening of The Curve theatre venue and to celebrate International Women’s Day.  

Our Special Relationship was written in response to The New York Times call for poems in reaction to the 2017 election of Trump and was published on the New York Times website.

Anna Jones at the Innerverse

Join in at The Innerverse every last Wednesday of the month at The Herschel Arms in Slough. This poetry, spoken word & comedy night has just marked its first year Innerversary and these films were made as part of these celebrations. This regular open mic night is a welcoming community of poets/lyricists /MCees/wordsmiths/spokenword artists/comics

The Innerverse is especially encouraging of first-time performers as we know the nerves and courage it takes to perform.

Anna is currently directing and producing an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to celebrate and mark the 80th anniversary of Windsor Theatre Guild.

Celebrate 80 years of Windsor Theatre Guild this summer with our outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s most enduring and enchanting play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. BOOK TICKETS

Bring family and friends, food and fizz to the beautiful private settings of Foxleigh Grove where we will be conjuring up midsummer mystery and mayhem.

Join fairies, lovers and our passionate players so that, like Bottom the Weaver, you can be moved, maybe even transformed, by the magic of theatre.

Picnics from 6.30pm, show starts at 8pm July 4th, 5th, 6th & 11th, 12th, 13th.


Lady Howard of Tavistock
 
I’m Mary with a story, which many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who condemn us all to hell.
 
My own tale is a cursed one, that’s told from days of yore
Five hundred long years I’ve travelled, across the wild Dartmoor
In a ghostly ghastly carriage made from the bones of six dead men
It carries me nightly and forever to Oakhampton and home again
Betwixt the strike of midnight and the dawn’s first cock’rel crow
From Fitzford House near Tavistock to Oak Castle I must go
To carry out my penance and fetch forth one blade of grass
Until the lush green mound is bare, my curse will never pass.
 
I’ll begin at the beginning, with the bones of him who died first
John Fitz once lord of Fitzford House, our home now with me cursed
Daddy John inherited a vast fortune, but our fortune was brief
It drove him insane and set my path: an eternity of grief
The Fitzford wealth it earnt him, more enemies than silver groats
He killed friend and foe, his craz’d mind hooked on slitting rivals’ throats
Those who spill it they soon come to learn, blood can’t be washed with gold
I found him slashed by his own hand, I’m an orphan, nine years old.
 
I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who send us all to hell.
 
Alone, young, rich and female, I need protecting from false claims
How naïve to think my earthly saviour could ever be righteous King James
Pious bastard sold me like a chattel to the Earl of Northumberland
Was only a child when he tired of me and gave his brother my wedded hand
As abused and trapped and frightened as the poor creatures he hunted for glory
I beseeched mother earth and all of her beasts to remove him from my story
Nature is red in tooth and claw, soon horn and hoof his gizzards gore
Hunter is hunted and dead man two, I’m your prey no more.
 
I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who drive us all to hell.
 
I ran away with my sweetheart, married in secret to fair Thomas
My life it finally felt full of hope, future brimming with such promise
But you’ve guessed by now that this isn’t a tale where happiness will last
Just a few months of joy ‘til tragedy when my one true love he passed
The pain and grieving will never stop for my dead man who went third
Was still in black weeds and just sixteen when forced to wed John Howard
Hid from him my every penny: “Sir do you not love me poor?”
This stayed as unknown as the causes of death of this dead man number four.
 
I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who take us all to hell.
 
I rue the day I met my final husband Sir Richard Grenville
Used fire and fists to harm me, locked me up against my will
Star chamber found him vile and violent sent him straight to Lydford Gaol
On escaping he revelled in torment and terror on a far much larger scale
When brother turned against brother and England she was bleeding
‘Twas turncoat rich warred for both sides as general and was leading
Parliament ‘gainst royals and vice versa ’til no troops were left alive
This traitor, Skellum, Gren-villain is the bones of dead man five.
 
I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who doom us all to hell.
 
I’m way past the point of white weddings now, I’ll only take a lover
Although as a wife I’ve truly failed, I try and be a better mother
Head home to Tavistock with George my boy, but me and luck don’t mix
The fates they deal my last mortal blow and make him dead man six
My heart and earthly body breaks, soul taken, no longer my own
I’m cast as a black widow, with a black dog to match, in a carriage made from bone.
 
Betwixt the strike of midnight and the dawn’s first cock’rel crow
From Fitzford House near Tavistock to Oak Castle I must go
To carry out my penance and fetch forth one blade of grass
Until the lush green mound is bare, my curse will never pass.
 
Legend is not kind to females, especially when bold, brave and beautiful
It warns all girls throughout all time to be decent, dull and dutiful
I’m a woman with a story, but aren’t all our sex damned as well?
Leave those men and your life behind you my dear, come and ride with me to hell…
 
Anna jones ©2017

Newsletter – November 2018

OK, I’ve changed my mind. I admit it. In March I published book three in my historical series, A Light in the Dark AgesUther’s Destiny – with the announcement that me work was complete. The series was finished. I had intended to join the end of Roman Britannia to the coming of King Arthur. Uther’s Destiny ends with the boy Artorius drawing the sword from the stone in a cunning plan devised by Merlyn.
Well, seven months on, I’ve decided to continue the series and write a fourth book. I had initially baulked at the prospect of writing a King Arthur story (oh no, not another one!) but, having mulled it over and done some further reading around the subject, have found a way in – a glimmer of a storyline. So, I’m heading in – wish me luck! I’ve also decided to follow the same plotting and writing plan that led to Uther’s Destiny last year. This involved researching, writing a plot outline, character lists and a first half chapter plan in October, and then crashing out a first draft (or at least the first 50,000 words) in November, using the framework of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
My novel title is: Arthur Dux Bellorum and I’ve even found a picture I’d like to use for the cover. I found this on a site called DeviantArt and tracked down its owner. I have agreed a fee with him to use it for commercial purposes, and have sent it to my cover designer, Cathy Walker, to see what she can do with it. Here’s the picture…

NaNoWriMo – www.nanowrimo.org
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, about 400,000 participants from all over the World began working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. November is a bit of a nothing month – wedged between the end of summer and the start of the madness of Christmas – so perfect for putting aside the 2-3 hours a day that is required to maintaining an average of 1,666 words a day to hit the 50,000-word target (evenings and weekends take most of strain).
Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel. Mr. NaNo says: “Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. This is about the length of The Great Gatsby. We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does. We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.”

Pep Talk From Neil Gaiman

From the NaNo Archives, I’ve found this inspirational Pep Talk from bestselling author, Neil Gaiman…
Dear NaNoWriMo Author,
By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more—and that even when they do you’re preoccupied and no fun. You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.
Welcome to the club.
That’s how novels get written.
You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It’s a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn’t build it it won’t be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.
The search for the word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.
The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”
I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”
“You don’t remember?”
“Not really.”
“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”
I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.
So, I put down the phone and drove down to the coffee house in which I was writing the book, filled my pen and carried on writing.
One word after another.
That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.
So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.
Pretty soon you’ll be on the downward slide, and it’s not impossible that soon you’ll be at the end. Good luck…
Neil Gaiman