My Hearty Arty Week

This week I’ve been enjoying art of a different kind.

On Monday evening I took my mother-in-law to a ballet performance, a late Christmas present. It was my first time at the ballet and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We watched the tragic story of Giselle, a peasant girl who (without giving too much away) dies of a broken heart and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the performance.

There was only one scene change and the show relied upon a combination of costume, movement and expressive body language to convey the story; supported by the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky to create just the right mood. It reminded me of going to the opera, where the story is told through song, usually in Italian. However, with opera, many theatres these days put up a translation to help the audience follow the story. This doesn’t seem to be the case with ballet, but it didn’t impede my enjoyment and it was certainly intriguing to watch a story unfold without the use of words.

Watson haul

On Tuesday evening we had tickets to watch Mark Watson in stand-up comedy. I love stand-up and this was my first time seeing Mark Watson live, although I’ve listened to him aplenty on the radio and watched him on the television many a time. The venue was The Stables at Milton Keynes, a small auditorium that only holds about 500 people, but makes for a very intimate evening.

As expected, Mark Watson delivered an incredibly polished performance. After 10 years in the business, he really knows how to adapt his show and work with an individual audience to provide the best evening’s entertainment and, I have to say, he’s probably one of the best I’ve seen live for self-deprecating comedy in a long time. Plus I managed to get hold of his latest novel in my haul too, always a bonus.

What struck me about my two very different evenings were the similarities. The ballerinas learn the choreography and practise daily to ensure that they not only dance to perfection, but their moves are synchronised with the music to deliver their best performance. The comedian  spends hours, days, probably weeks, writing his material; working the small clubs to hone it down, finding out which jokes work best, getting the timing just right, before he takes it on tour.

This ‘behind the scenes’ work was quite poignant to me in a week in which I’m working on my edits for Before It’s Too Late. I realise books are very different from the arts of ballet and comedy, but the background process strikes me as quite similar.

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London & The Magic of Camden Market

One of the reasons I absolutely love visiting London is because it is a place full of nooks and crannies filled with little gems. Even if we haven’t experienced them in person we’ve all seen photos of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, a red London bus, a black cab. But there is so much more to the big city.

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Just Another Phase…

We’ve been busy decorating daughter’s bedroom recently. It seems to me that the life of a child is played out in phases, in her case characterized by the décor of her room. When she was young it was a Winnie the Pooh room. When old enough to express a preference we moved into a pink Disney Princess theme. Several years on, she was fascinated by the ocean, so we switched to blue and accessorised with all things under the sea. Now that she is a teenager we have moved on again and I’m sure that her purple walls will soon be covered with posters from her beloved Kerrang magazine.

As I stroked the brush across the walls, it struck me that navigating the creative world of writing feels quite similar in many ways. When I discovered fiction writing, all those years ago, I started with a few short stories. Then I dipped my toe in the water and decided to write a novel which eventually became An Unfamiliar Murder. I had a bit of a paddle with The Truth Will Out, still unsure of whether it would actually work. With my latest, I plunged myself right in at the deep end and immersed myself in it. However, since starting my fourth, I feel I’ve lost my way a little.

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Taking Time Out in the Scottish Highlands

The Lonely Planet calls The Trossachs, ‘achingly beautiful’. Less than an hour’s drive north of the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, The Trossachs (also known as the gateway to the Highlands) couldn’t be more different to Scotland’s second city. It’s a mountainous National Park, with lochs around just about every corner, plenty of wildlife and lush, rolling countryside in abundance.

This is a place of peace and tranquillity, where internet connection and mobile phone signals are practically non-existent, where cars slow to allow ducks to cross the road, red squirrels climb the trees and the only sounds you wake to in the mornings are the gush of a nearby waterfall, the trill of birds singing and the wind whispering through the forest.

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My Heart Bleeds

This past week it seems that my Twitter feed, Facebook posts, even email has been bombarded with news about the latest computer virus – Heartbleed. Initially some posts contained lists of the most important sites where it was imperative to change your password to avoid security issues, but as the week progressed the news appeared to gain momentum and the last piece of advice I read was to change all your passwords on every site you’ve ever used on the internet. I’m not sure I’d remember every site I’d ever used even if I had a spare day to work on it!

So, I sat down on my day off in the spare twenty minutes I had between walking the dog and mum taxi-ing my daughter to her friend’s and thought I’ll have a go.  First, I wrote a list of all the sites I could remember. Within five minutes I’d filled a page and was already starting to feel weary. Then, realising I only had fifteen minutes left, I set about prioritising and changing the key ones I used most days. Hmmm. Easier said than done.

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