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Ten Observations on the Election Results from a Disillusioned Mother


I must confess to being very down over the election results. I was hoping that people would use compassion when casting their votes. But no. So I thought I had better write some of my thoughts down to try and find a way out of the gloom.

1. Time to seriously consider PR.
36.9% voted Tory. 63.1% didn’t. This is the system we have in this country but that doesn’t mean it is right. If there was PR we would now have 25 greens, 50 ish LDs, a few less Labour and a lot fewer Cons. But we’d also have 82 UKIP MPs.

2. Embarrassment
4 out of 10 voters were embarrassed to admit they voted Tory hence the skewed polls (according to a Yougov poll). The question of the polls is still being debated. There is no doubt more to it than just this.

3. Memories of 1992
Remember what happened in John Major’s second term. He had a majority of 21.

‘Mr Major’s majority of 21 melted away completely after a series of by-elections, scandals and defections; Mr Cameron’s slimmer margin of victory, just 12, gives him even less room for manoeuvre, although the opposition he faces is more fractured.’ George Parker, political editor of FT, May 8th 2015

4. Isolation
The in-out referendum will cause a split in the Conservative party. If we leave Europe, the SNP will push for another referendum. Then Britain will be smaller and more isolated.

5. Lies
The deficit argument was based on a pack of lies. The deficit is bigger now than in 2010. Why wasn’t this point hammered home by Labour?

There has been no increase in jobs – unless you count a zero hour contract as a job.

6. Newspapers

Is it just a coincidence that the men who own the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Times and the Sun are all non-Doms who don’t pay tax in the UK?

7. Young people

We have two sons going to university in September. By the time they graduate, they will have a minimum of £42K debt. Each.

8. Leadership

We’ve got to choose the right Labour leader – someone not tarnished by the Iraq war, someone who’s had real life experience. And yes, because we live in shallow times, someone with ‘charisma’. Charisma is obviously more important than conviction or compassion.

9. Always cast your vote.

10.’If you don’t do politics, there’s not much you do do.’

Talk to your children about politics. This generation have got it tough so they need to engage with the political process.

Actually, talk to anyone who will listen. Politics is not a rude word. Everything is politics.

5 Reasons to Offer Creative Writing as an A Level Subject


I was honoured to be asked to run a creative writing workshop for the AS and A2 students at Exeter College today. I worked with two groups and came away feeling that this is most definitely a subject that 16-18 year olds should be offered nationwide. And Exeter College are doing it very well. From my perspective, even the initially reluctant students entered into the spirit of the workshop which was to, well, actually write. After all, if you want to be a writer that is what you have to do. And they gave it a go and were brave enough to read out their pieces. I was really impressed and encouraged.

These are my five reasons why Creative Writing should be an A Level subject:

1. Creative Writing complements either English Language or English Literature as an A Level choice. It allows students to reflect on the nature of writing, in the same way that a bi-ligual student has the upper hand when it comes to learning a language.

2. Creative Writing allows those students who are quirky and maybe off-centre to find a place that they fit.

3. Creative Writing allows those students who are quiet and introverted to have a voice.

4. We human beings have a primal need to tell stories. It’s what makes us human. Stories help shape our personal pasts and collective futures. Once upon a time and forever and ever.

5. The art of Creative Writing can be learned and honed through structured teaching, just like Fine Art and Engineering and Geography.

I wish I had been able to choose this as an A Level subject. I was 33 before I had the chance to study creative writing – an adult education class led by Jan Henley at Worthing College. I’ve never looked back.

Pause for Thought 2 (Radio Devon early show)- ‘Why I Write’.


The words of Simon Kettlewell

Originally posted on Simon Kettlewell Author:


Why I write.

If I could have an artistic wish, it would be to be musical. I love music from punk through to many of today’s acts, but I’m about as melodious as a group of howling cats. The thing about music, is that it’s instant. When you write a novel it takes so long that sometimes you forget what it was you were writing about in the first place. After that you have to wait for people to tell you what they think. That’s a tough one if you wait for a year to hear it’s rubbish. It’s different for music. You can share music right away, and feel the impact it has on an audience. But I guess art is art. Whether you’re Banksy, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, or Ernest Hemmingway, or a child doing a painting, or even me slogging at a laptop, it’s still art. It’s…

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Anyone for Croquet?


Monday 28th May 1900

Dearest Tommie

Thank you ever so much for the A.C.C.* book. Now I shall be able to think of you on match days and wish I were playing with you. I hope you will be put with Maude, as I always think you get on so well together and she is so nice and safe. I suppose the two Mrs. are to the fore again. Is Ronald still keen on Muriel? I expect that is too much to expect after six months. Who is the latest? By the way, does that sweet youth do anything for his living yet or is he still in the band of loafers. I am so wondering how you got on against Croydon on Wednesday. How I do wish you could have licked them. Write and tell me all about the tournament, won’t you? Who are you going to play with in the Ladies Doubles? I hope Bessie will be nice and keen. Give her my love and tell her she is to buck up.

We have not got the monsoon yet. I’m beginning to think it is afraid and won’t come at all. It has broken in the outer places, so I suppose it must come in time. Last night it was dreadfully close, not an atom of wind. We could not get to sleep for ever so long. In fact I got up and promenaded about the verandah to try and get cool. There is more breeze this morning so it is not quite so oppressive. There are a good many clouds about, but I am afraid they are not rain clouds, so don’t feel very hopeful. Howsomeever I’m quite well, so I suppose I ought not to grumble.

We are having our bathroom attuned, the roof raised, and the room made longer, and also have invested in a new bath. We could not stand the other one any longer. Have I ever told you about it? It was a fixed one made of cement, very long and very narrow, with quite straight sides and a sort of dirty grey colour. George put me off it the very first time by saying it was like a coffin, and so it was. You felt when you were in it as if there ought to be a lid to go on top of you. And the worst of it was that we could never have more than about two inches of water in it as it took pailsful to cover the bottom. Now we have had that broken away and have got an ordinary zinc one, a huge oval tub. Of course we can’t lie down in it but we can have plenty of water and it is quite big enough for comfort and is altogether a great improvement. I could never feel that the other thing was clean somehow.

I am happy I’ve got a cat! It is a sweet little thing, mouse grey, with white front paws. Mr Van Dort sent it to me, his ‘boy’ caught it going after chickens. I don’t expect it has any home, but just lived on what it could pick up. I only had it on Thursday and it was very frightened at first, but has got quite at home now. I think it finds it very blissful having regular food. It was dreadfully thin, just like taking hold of a fish bone, as Jo would say, but it is already much fatter and George makes rude remarks about the tightness of its little tummy. It is too lovely to see it with the dog, we simply split over them. The cat is not a scrap frightened and rubs itself against Gretchen and plays with her tail in the most friendly way. Gretchen’s eyes nearly come out of her head, trying to look at us and the cat at the same time and the resigned expression she puts on is delicious. Cats in Ceylon are aways small and generally thin and leggy but George says this one is as good as any he has seen.

I am very sorry to hear of Mr Parkin’s death, coming so suddenly it must have been a dreadful shock to them. I suppose Maud is in the seventh heaven by this time. I imagine Mrs Gillespy was at Croydon when he arrived, wasn’t she, or is she still at Horwich?

We went out in the launch on Saturday and we got such jolly grass, rather like Pampas only not quite so fluffy. It grows to a tremendous height along the banks of the lagoon, quite 20 ft, and it looks awfully pretty waving about. It is a sort of bamboo and has very thick stems. I have got some standing in the corner of the room, like we put our bulrushes, and it nearly reaches the ceiling.

We have been busy planting things in the flower bed. We haven’t got much to put in yet. George is going to write to Nuwara Eliya and ask what English flowers will grow here. There is a florist there who has things from England. We have a row of arrow root plants, they are rather pretty, a little like Indian corn, only variegated, quite big white patches on the leaves. They throw out a funny sort of root, which is the part you eat. Then we have a few rather sickly begonias the boy brought from Nuwara Eliya, and some ferns, and a few odd things we are not sure of.

I do hope your tea went off all right. I think it is rather mean of the Justicans to give up the Club and forsake you just when I had gone.

I haven’t got much to tell you this week. Your letters are always so brimful of news, mine seems tame after them.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

from Mab.

*Addiscombe Croquet club

My Dearest Mother


Negombo Rest House
May 14th 1900

My dearest Mother

I expect you will wonder where on earth we are and what we were doing. I told you in my last letter that we were most probably going down to Colombo for the weekend to get money, but on Wednesday George had a letter to say they were sending someone over to us with it instead. Mr Marshall, the accountant, came – a very nice man indeed and easy to get on with. George went down in the launch to Negombo on Friday to meet him, that is halfway between us and Colombo. He came the first part by coach. Then yesterday (Sunday) we brought him back here in the launch and he went on to Colombo in a regular steamboat which goes backwards and forwards. We are staying here till tomorrow. We shall start away about 12 and get home between 5 and 6. We had to get up at 5.30 yesterday morning. Neither Mr Marshall nor I appreciated it. the water is rather low now so we did not get along as fast as usual and got stuck once or twice. It was very hot too so we were fairly tired out by the time we got here. I did not envy Mr Marshall having four more hours of it.

This is not a bad little place and has water nearly all round it, as the lake and the sea join here. The rest house is on the edge of the lake. I wish it were on the sea as it would be cooler. It was frightfully hot last night. Our room had only one window and as we could not very well have the door open, there was no draught through. George was so hot and sleepless that he got up and had a whiskey and soda which made him feel much better. I was too tired to notice it much and slept very well.

A rest house is a sort of inn which is under government. The man in charge is appointed and has certain regulations as to price etc. This is a fairly good one. The sanitary arrangements are rather unwholesome but they might be worse.

This afternoon we are going out in a catamaran. I must tell you my experience tomorrow. A catamaran is a boat cut out of a single cocoa nut trunk and is about a foot wide and then it has to have a huge out rigger made out of another log of wood to keep up the balance. You sit on a tiny narrow seat with your feet screwed into the trunk. The men paddle them along and they go at a tremendous pace. I can imagine your horror at the sight of one but they are very safe and, besides, the lake is quite shallow. I am very glad for George to have the days rest in between going and coming as Jeremiah is still ill so he has to drive the engine himself and it makes him dreadfully hot and tired.

Tuesday, 9.00 am.

We got home from our sail safely last night although we got drenched as it came on to pour when we were halfway home. It was very jolly though and a very novel experience. I was wrong about where you sit. I did not have to screw my legs inside the boat but we sat on a board put across the out rigger. We had a cushion on the board and rested our feet on the side of the boat. They put up a huge sail when we got into the wind and we simply spun along. It was lovely but I don’t think a nervous person would enjoy it much as you felt you were suspended on one frail board over the raging ocean.

We did get wet coming back. I was worse off than George as my sunshade dripped so much it was like a little torrent on my back. On my hips where the rain beat, I was wet to the skin. I had got another pair of combies, of course, but I unfortunately had not brought another skirt or petticoat as I only thought we were going to stay one night. I could not get my things dried as they don’t have any proper fires, only smoky wood things and my clothes would have got pitch black. I thought I should have to return to bed and have my diner there but George suddenly had a brilliant idea. I pinned my waterproof cape round me as a petticoat and wore my skirt above it and no wet could come through. I went to bed directly after dinner though as it was not exactly comfortable and George dosed me with hot whiskey and water in case I might have caught cold, but I am quite all right this morning.

The men were awfully funny on the boat. We could not understand a word they said as they spoke Tamil. One of them took off his skirt and put it round us to keep off the rain and then kept on jabbering away to me and laughing but as ‘lady’ was the only word I could understand I could only smile back at them.

We shall start off this morning about 12 o’clock. I hope it won’t be very hot, but the rain last night has cooled the air a little.

Tell Amy not to get excited if the moonstones drop out of her ring. They are so roughly made but what can you expect for 1 rupee, and besides moonstones always come out, George says, because they are so smooth and hard. I hope Tommie’s bruises soon got better after falling off the little bathroom steps. However much does she weigh? I always thought those steps were fairly solid.

I am afraid I have got used to seeing George walk about with his trousers inside his socks. He does it partly to prevent animals crawling up his legs and also because the sand gets so into the hems of his trousers. His moustache is quite a decent size now and he is secretly proud of it. I must say I don’t like it very much but then I never do like moustaches. But it was best to let him try as he wanted to and he will get sick of it himself presently and will shave it off again.

I am not writing to anybody this week but you as I have not had any time. The coach passed here yesterday with our mail in it; it was so tantalising not to be able to have it. I hope you will be able to read this, but I have been writing on the verandah in a long chair so it is rather difficult.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

Your very loving daughter, Mab

Hope you got nice and fat while you were at Fairbank.

Last Post

Last Post.

Best Bits

It’s been a funny old year, 2014. Not particularly sorry to see the end of it as there have been stresses and strains. But there were some moments.

Best Book: Us by David Nicholls

Best Television Drama: Broadchurch


Best Television Comedy: Friday Night Dinner


Best Reality: Gogglebox


I didn’t see any decent films.

Most Inspiring Person: Malala Yousafzai


St Ives: Me and my mum


Glenda and Ben’s wedding:


The Exeter Novel Prize: Inaugural award ceremony


Trip to Israel (Silver Wedding treat):

Tackiest tourist trap – Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is supposed to be where Jesus was crucified and buried. What would Jesus think of the bling?


Most peaceful place and such a contrast to the latter was the Garden Tomb – much more authentic and real.


The Old City of Jerusalem where I felt I was treading in the footsteps of angels (whilst being squashed by tourists and pilgrims):


Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (that were there when Jesus was):


Putting my hand where Jesus was supposed to have placed his, on his last painful journey, down the Via Dolorosa:


Most breathtaking View: Masada


Trip to Edinburgh:My favourite city


My books: Seeing The Generation Game get to number 16 in the Kindle chart:


And some exciting news to come…

My family. We said some goodbyes to dear relatives, Auntie Shirley and Uncle Lyman. But I discovered my great grandmother’s letters and I got to know Mabel through her writing to her mother and sister.


I got to see my Canadian cousin, Susan. She’s serving in Lithuania.

I got to see my brother in Wales. He’s now American but Welsh in his heart.

sophie lecture 007

Seeing my children celebrate their 19th, 18th and 16th birthdays:

sophie lecture 029

Actually, I’m exhausted reading through all this. Thank you to everyone who reads my blog. It is a bit of a jumbled mess but I love it.

Bring it on, 2015.

Sophie x

Six Things My Dad Taught Me

1. The importance of family. We owe our lives to those who went before us. To those who loved us and took care of us. This doesn’t always go well. But we have to learn and love and forgive.


2. It’s okay to be an observer. The one who dodges the camera. The one who operates in the background. As long as every now and again you let yourself shine with a one-liner, a roar of laughter, or a sparkle in your eye.


3. Always have a car with a big boot.

sophie lecture 008

sophie lecture 022

4. Always live near the sea.

sophie lecture

5. Never forget.

6. Never give up hope. I wish my dad had persevered with this game of life but I know however hard it gets, there is a light shining in the darkness.

Christmas 1977

Christmas 1977

Another Five Things about Teenagers

I have blogged before about my three lovely, wild, frustrating, up-and-down teenagers. In just a few months, the oldest will be twenty years old and hence no longer a teenager. He will still be at home briefly before travelling to Japan to learn the language and absorb the culture he has been mesmerised by throughout his teens. The next son will be off to Africa around the same time, a passion in his heart for that huge, complex continent, a worry for his parents as he makes his journey. The youngest, now sixteen, is in Year 11, GCSE madness all around, gobby, lippy, a young woman who stands up against injustice who can be a joy to have around or a minefield of emotions to pick our way through. I wouldn’t be a teenager again for all the tea in Waitrose. It’s the best of times and the worst of times and yet when they go, how I will miss the mess, the half-drunk coffee mugs, the slamming doors, the late-night taxi pick-ups, the heaps of washing, the nagging, the moaning …

Okay, so here are my five things:

1. Teenagers do need a lot of sleep, they really do. They have a different circadian rhythm to the rest of us and need those lie ins. If they need to sleep, let them. Just as it’s wrong to wake a sleeping baby, so it is wrong to wake a sleeping teen. On your head be it.

2. If they want a party at your house and they want you to go elsewhere for the evening (remember Abigail’s Party), then go. Take the dogs, the booze (they will bring their own whether you like it or not) and your iWotsits. Give the neighbours a heads-up and a curfew of eleven o’clock – which sounds fair, as long as it’s not a regular event. After all, you have to put up with the neighbourhood toddlers all summer, screaming in their paddling pools. What goes around comes around. Your teenagers were once toddlers. One day those neighbourhood toddlers will be teenagers. We all have to live together as as a community. (Our neighbours have been awesome.)

3. Praise them the same you would for any child. Show them they have talents and gifts and even when they feel crap about life, remind them of a funny incident from childhood.

4. Hug them, whether they like it or not. Even the grumpy boys.

5. Put a big map on your kitchen wall with stickers for the places you would love to visit. It gives you stuff to talk about at family meals. It shows them that their tiny, troubled life is a speck on the planet. Their worries are usually first world worries. Let them go to Japan and Africa or wherever, but yes, it will be really hard.

And I know I shouldn’t blog about my teenagers but they won’t read this. After all they haven’t read their mother’s novels. But maybe one day, when they are on their travels, they will turn to their mother’s words on the page, or remember their mother’s words to them over the years, the dos and the donts and the ILoveYous.

2013-07-28 22.38.20

PS. The Generation Game is still on Kindle at 99p for the next week. I need those sales for my teenagers food and loo roll consumption.

Lizards, Centipedes and Rain

Sunday, April 22nd. 1900

My dearest Mother

George has gone for a bike ride with Mr Van Dort, something about cocoa-nuts. He doesn’t usually go out without me on a Sunday, but I persuaded him to go today, as he gets so little exercise and as it is cooler I don’t think it will hurt him.

We had such a lovely rain last night. It began about 6 o’clock and kept us well into the night. It thundered a good deal, but it was not too close so I didn’t mind. It is wonderful what a difference even a few minutes heavy rain makes. The thermometer soon drops from 89 or 90 degrees to 82 or 83 degrees and you feel a different creature. The last two nights it has been 81 when we went to bed and we quite appreciated a sheet over us; lately we have not had anything at all. It does not feel so bare as it would at home, as of course the mosquito curtains are all around and over the top so nothing can get at you. The bed has a top and posts rather like an old-fashioned four-poster, and the net is stretched right over and you tuck it in with the sheet. The top is made of thick calico, so you see if anything does fall off the roof, it can’t fall on the bed. The curtains are pulled aside in the day-time. The boy tucks them in in the evening, so that grasshopper must have hopped in sometime.

I am so glad of that thin dressing gown I made. The one Mrs Gillespy gave me has washed so thick I simply can’t wear it; it makes me drip. Directly after breakfast I always take off everything except my combies and put on my blue dressing gown. When that goes to the wash, I wear a petticoat and a dressing jacket. Since it has been so hot I have not changed for tea, but have waited until about 5 o’clock. It simply makes me drip to do my hair or put on clothes any earlier. It is so horrid to have water running down one’s chest and back. But the worst of the heat is over now. It will be fairly hot for another month till the real S. W. Monsoon bursts, but it won’t be so bad. It gets very hot again in August and September just before the N.E. Monsoon breaks, but now is always reckoned the hottest part of the year.

I don’t believe I have told you about Mr Meinhold’s present which came the other day. We are so disappointed with it. I can’t think why he chose it. It is a big cruet stand with four bottles, very common moulded glass, just the sort of thing you see in a lodging house. I expect he gave a lot for it out there and I could cry when I think of what jolly silver or brass things he could have got at Rangoon. He might have got a silver salver for the money.

Thank Amy ever so much for the book. I have enjoyed it so much, have just finished it. It came just in the nick of time when I had not got a single thing to read. We have found the library at Colombo and get 12 books at a time, but they take such a fearful age coming and going in the wretched boats that it means being stranded with none for some time. Since it has been so hot, I’m afraid I’ve read more than I’ve worked; the needle does get so sticky.

The other night there was either a centipede or a millipede on the dining room wall. George was not sure which it was and the boy was vague so he killed it to be safe. Centipedes sting but millipedes are harmless. It was like a big black caterpillar with reddish legs. In fact I drew George’s attention to it by saying ‘What a big caterpillar!’.

I am glad you like my photos. I suppose they are about as good as I could expect. My face certainly is fatter and so is my body. It is the collar of that blouse that gives the effect of thinness. I don’t mind a bit who you give the other copy of the group to. First I thought of the Justicans but really I don’t care a scrap. Give it to whoever you think would like it the best. Perhaps Aunt Amelia?

Monday morning
It began to rain this morning at about 4 o’clock, came down in torrents and thundered a little. George thought it was going to be a bad storm but it passed over. It kept on raining till about 8 o’clock and is still very cloudy and heavy. I expect it will begin again this afternoon. This is really the ‘Little Monsoon;’ and I expect we shall have it showery for several days. It is cooler but rather steamy this morning as the sun is sort of half-shining.

I’ve just been watching such a fat lizard out of the window. He is living on the sloping tiled roof of the kitchen which joins the house just below this window. His body is like a fat frog’s and he has a very long tail. He is on the watch for flies but has one eye on me all the time. It is wonderful how quickly they spot you.

The thing we thought was a centipede was quite harmless Mr Van Dort told me at dinner last night. George and he got back from their ride about 6 o’clock.

Please thank Carrie for her letter and also the Chicks. I was delighted with their epistle and will answer them soon.

Lots of love and kisses from Mab.

Mabel and George's wedding, Colombo, Ceylon, 1899

Mabel and George’s wedding, Colombo, Ceylon, 1899

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