The Maverick Minstrel

If you watched the Comedy Proms on Saturday, then I applaud you for giving it a go. It was amazing, not least its host, the ‘maverick minstrel’, Tim Minchin. He stole the show with his mesmerizing piano playing and witty, intelligent, laugh-out-loud songs.

With his skinny jeans, bare feet, ginger back-combed hair and a ton of eye make-up (and very white teeth), you might be surprised to hear me talk of the comparison to Richard Stilgoe – but he is in that vein – just a bit more rock’n’roll.

When we were in Montreal last month we got tickets to watch him (Tim Minchin, not Richard Stilgoe) at the Just for Laughs festival. I’d seen him a few times on telly but had no idea what a talent he is. I might not agree with his views on God (I don’t) but at least he thinks about the things in life that matter. He sails close to the wind but somehow gets away with it because of the depth of his thinking – and that cheeky grin. And the way his fingers move up and down the piano keys – jazz, rock and roll, lullabies… is astounding.

Despite having musical children, our family has always resisted the proms, maybe because my husband grew up in an Irish household where the Union Jack was referred to as the Butchers Apron, and all that xenophobic flag-waving and Rule Britannia nonsense leaves me cold. But I will be tuning in next year if they do another comedy prom – which I am sure they will as everyone I’ve talked to, whether they are musicians or not, got something special from the evening.

If you get the chance, have a listen to the song F Sharp. Genius.


On the road…

On Saturday I did my first book signing for The Generation Game in Exeter Roman Gate Waterstones. It was really nerve-wracking. Do I make eye contact with punters? Do I look busy with some writing? Do I just be bold and come out with: Would you like to buy my book? 

 I tried all three attacks and some paid off some of the time. My favourite customer was the lovely Camilla from Denmark. I really hope she gets those 1970s television references…

So tomorrow I am being picked up by a photographer from the Western Morning News and we’re heading off to Teignmouth seafront for some photos to go with an interview I did last week.

I’ll have to carefully disguise my roots and hope there’s a little sunshine.

And what’s next? More book signings … Plymouth, Yeovil, Godalming… so exciting!

I am a cider drinker

Sir Jimmy Young is returning to radio broadcasting for a one hour special to celebrate his 90th birthday.

When I heard this, it took me back to schooldays, remembering how important radio was to teenagers of the 80s. The  Top Forty countdown on a Sunday evening. Listening to a tranny (short for transistor radio for those of you who don’t remember) in the locker room at school at break time to find out who was number one that week (can anyone remember what day of the week that was?). But most important was the breakfast show on Radio One: singing along getting ready for school, expertly applying make-up that wouldn’t be detected by teachers, crimping my fringe so it behaved, finishing homework, thinking about Andrew Ridgeley (if you don’t remember who he is, then you don’t deserve to be told). ..

The highlight of these days was the Radio One roadshow at Torquay, 1983. I was 15 and had a small crush on Mike Read (I know, I know). Living just a few miles away in Teignmouth, my friend Jackie (who had a big crush on the DJ) decided  we would go along. We were really excited because there was always a surprise live act – the previous week Wham had appeared somewhere in Cornwall. We knew it was a long shot that they’d reappear in Torquay but there was a glimmer of hope that I might finally clap eyes on Andrew Ridgeley (there’s a clue there to who he is – i.e. not George).

We were disappointed. Who did we get: was it Duran Duran? Spandau Ballet? The Thompson Twins? The Human League?


We got…The Wurzels.

Now, in a strange twist of fate, Wham is long gone, Andrew disappearing to the depths of Cornwall somewhere, George … well, we all know about George. But the Wurzels? Well, they are still going strong. In fact – and yes, this is true – my husband is a fan, mainly because he’s a Bristol City supporter (well, someone has to be). Worse than this, he’s dragging our younger son along to a gig in Exmouth at the end of the month.

Stranger still was that I was on BBC Radio this week – on the Shep and Jo show, Radio Devon, talking about The Generation Game. It was fun and they were lovely.

Long live radio.

(If you want to listen, I’m on at 1.31.45 secs, just after Dolly Parton.)

How to be a Canadian

I’m just back from a fortnight in Canada during which time my debut novel The Generation Game was officially published.

I’ve been to Canada several times over the last twenty-odd years and it has a special place in my heart. The vastness of it, the friendly people, the beauty, the bustle, Tim Horton’s. A country of extremes. And big, big, bigness.

I first went as a 17 year old to southern Ontario – the Falls were spectacular and the welcome huge. A kind relative offered to sponsor me so I could move out  there but I wasn’t brave enough to take that  big step over the ocean.

Canada has stayed at the edge of my vision, just out of reach, but never far from my mind so when I wrote The Generation Game it was easy to put in a chapter set in Toronto. Soon after I finished the first draft, my husband booked a week’s (surprise) holiday in the Great White North for my fortieth birthday. It was an amazing coincidence to be back in the land of my dreams.

We went back the following year with our kids who fell in love with the place – of course. And now we’ve had our follow-up family visit and although we packed a lot in, we only saw a tiny fraction of the country. But what we saw and experienced was awesome (true Canadian word). My first Mountie in Ottawa. A visit to the emergency in a Montreal Hospital (never to be repeated, I hope).  Lunch in the CN Tower revolving restaurant on a completely fog-bound day. A swim in a deserted lake in probably the most beautiful place in the world.

Thinking I should immerse myself in some Canadian literature while out there, I read a fab epistolary novel, A Celibate Season, a collaboration between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard.

This worked really well as they each took on the voice of a spouse in a marriage put on hold for ten months due to a work separation. I recommend it.

Then as a parting gift to myself I bought the book How to be a Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson. It’s hilarious.

So as I prepare for the exciting world of interviews and book signings, I will try and plot my next novel so that it will be at least part set in Canada – then I’ll have to go back for research.