On the amazing oral poetry of Somali, and the writing of
A Shield of Coolest Air.
Two years ago, while televisions around the world were showing images of Syrian refugees in boats trying to get to a Greek island, in a London theatre the actor Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Hamlet. After the show he came out in front of the curtain and told the audience that they would be collecting money to help Syrian refugee children.… Read more
A little over twenty years ago I boarded a small plane in the UN base in Lokichogio, northern Kenya, to fly into a remote area of South Sudan. We were heading for a place called Mapel, a base from which Save the Children’s team supported what local people were doing to keep life going during the long drawn out civil war.… Read more
My dawn walk is by the river, practising my reading to the swans. I’m in Norwich for a gathering of writers from across the world, and today I will get fifteen minutes to read from Uncertain Light. I’m testing out two passages, to see which works best, and timing them. The swans are attentive, staring at me with beady audience-eyes.… Read more
I spent a year in the USA as an exchange student the year before Kennedy was assassinated. Fran, the mother of the family who hosted me, is 94 now and remembers Presidents who to me are just history. She still follows the news avidly, which today means in a state of undimmed outrage.… Read more
It’s dark all around us. My grandson, Zander – nearly three – is moulded into my lap, his body stilled by concentration as he watches the extraordinary goings on at the other end of the room. A young woman swings her puppet in the air, pretending to fly him over painted-cardboard-mountains and cotton-wool-clouds amidst birds that suddenly appear on sticks.… Read more
Uncertain Light has brought me to some strange places, but none stranger than this – I have been invited to speak at a conference on ‘Making the world a better place.’ My first reaction was – ‘You’re asking me?‘ The second was, Absurd to think any individual can do that. And yet, and yet …
I’m thinking back to September 2013 … Sitting on the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank, watching the profile of the man next to me.… Read more
If by any chance you missed me last month, Dear Blog-reader, here’s the reason – I’ve been learning to walk with my new hip. A different kind of journey – the unavoidable demands of the slowly healing body, the necessary quietening of the spirit in response. Stretches in a tunnel, then emerging to greet the early morning sun once again.… Read more
The wind blows hard, the night is dark, the stormy waves are rising
The anchor’s chain is broken, and the captain is asleep
British politics? Trump? Communal violence? Actually it’s the poet Ghalib in the early 19th century, commenting on the world around him Delhi – or perhaps on life in general; and in the first chapter of my novel the words lodge in the mind of Tessa as she faces a very personal crisis.
Poetry in a novel?… Read more
Reflections on being voted out of Europe, on being an immigrant, and on why we campaign.
Walking in early morning light … Facing up to the fact that we lost – that just over half the voters in Britain are happy with the referendum result that will take us out of the European Union.… Read more