Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good crack

No, I'm not talking about Class A drugs, but the concert we went to last night featuring Scottish folk musicians Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham.

It was held at the improbably-named Kendal Box, a brand new venue which looks as weird as it sounds. Even its own web page describes it as looking like a 'wonky box' and as Cunningham commented last night, he'd "never played inside a slate box before". But however strange it might look, as a venue it's great. Small but cosy and very intimate, with space for an audience of only around 300 which gives a great feeling of being right there with the performers. None of these vast Big Screens needed here - you could see everything, hear everything and feel almost as though you were in the local pub with them performing for their beer.

And what a performance! Not only are they both brilliant musicians (Bain on fiddle, Cunningham on accordion), but they're charming and witty too. They divided up the music with chat ('crack' to the Celts, hence the title of my post) with anecdotes, brief information about what they were playing, and some surprisingly hilarious jokes. They played piece after piece with never a hint of a wrong note (or of any sheet music to crib from, for that matter), for a good two hours and their solo pieces brought the house down.

We thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment and will definitely be adding Aly and Phil to the list of acts to watch out for in future. And I'm sure we'll be going back to the Wonky Box.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The reading pile

I'm embarrassed to admit that I currently have seven books in a heap by the side of the bed, plus a couple of ebooks I'm part way through. Every time I finish a book I seem to add another two or three and the pile never really gets any smaller. There are too many interesting books out there, dammit, and not enough time to read!

Currently I'm worrying my way through 'Mr Clive and Mr Page' by Neil Bartlett. When I first started it I thought it was really good, with an intriguing plot linking gay characters throughout the early part of the twentieth century, and some excellent prose writing. But... the more I read, the less I can work out what's going on. It's rather like stumbling around in a bowl of oxtail soup - everything seems cloudy, somehow. I don't even know for certain who the main character/narrator is, and I don't know the full names of the other important characters, and I don't know exactly when the book is set. There are flashbacks after flashbacks, and flashbacks within flashbacks, and an uneasy sense that the events being portrayed never happened at all but are simply in the narrator's imagination. And I'm already around a third of the way through, by which time I should have some idea of who's who and what's what.

I'm hoping everything will become clear by the end because at the moment it's quite simply driving me nuts!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Today... for one day only...

All Romance ebooks are holding a one-day, one-off 50% discount sale on all their 'incentive-eligible' titles (which basically means anything with a little crown logo next to it) today.

This is an incredible offer so if there are any ebooks you've had your eye on but haven't been able to afford, pop along to ARe now before it's too late!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Radge 6 on Kindle

The Byker Books editor has worked fast and Radgepacket Volume 6 is already available on Kindle for only £1.54.

This is incredible value for around twenty stories and great news for anyone on a tight budget (which is probably most of us at the moment).

You can buy the Kindle version (and Byker's other books, including Radgepackets 2 and 4 which also contain stories of mine) at the Byker Kindle store.

Oh - and if you're at all nervous about taking the plunge you could do worse than read this review from Sabotage, which should set your mind at rest.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Your name... for a coffee?

I spotted this article on the BBC website the other day, about the latest ploy from Starbucks.

Apparently the baristas will now be asking every customer's name when they place an order. This is supposed to cut down on confusion over which customer ordered which particular latte, and also to appear more friendly. In America, where the policy originated, it's popular.

But.... Here in Britain we're a much more reserved bunch, and the idea of having to tell some complete stranger my name just to get a cup of coffee sends shivers down my spine. Invasion of privacy, anyone? Not to mention having some sixteen-year-old school-leaver addressing me as 'Fiona' as though they're suddenly my best friend. If any Starbucks staff try it with me I shall have an attack of the Old Fogeys and tell them it's "Mrs Glass".

As much as anything it's the pretence that annoys me. They say they're trying to appear more friendly, but since when was any vast multi-national corporation interested in being my friend? What they're really doing is trying to make money. If they were a bit more honest about that, I might not mind quite so much.

Monday, March 12, 2012


We drove down to the south coast yesterday to spend the day with my inlaws, neither of whom have been particularly well recently (there are a lot of bugs and viruses about).

It was a really enjoyable day. We took them out for lunch at their favourite Chinese buffet, and afterwards we strolled along the riverside walk next to the River Itchen. Much to our amazement the weather was simply gorgeous. The sun shone brightly all day, and by early afternoon it was really warm - easily the warmest and most spring-like day of the year so far. Daffodils trumpeted from the verges, there were buds bursting on some of the smaller trees, geese honked, swans sailed magestically past, and the river sparkled in the sun.

Today we're back to mist and gloom, but it was lovely to have at least one day of spring at last.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Birthday cakes and birthday suits

Great news - Radgepacket Vol 6 has been released a few days ahead of schedule, which means you can now get your grubby paws on my latest story, Jack in the Box. This is a dark, gritty story of a young man cosying up to the local mob boss to get what he wants, which isn't necessarily what you first think it is.

"The first time I clapped eyes on Frank Turnbull I was jumping naked out of the cake at his fiftieth birthday party."

If you want to see what happens after that rather memorable entrance you'll have to buy the book, but that's no hardship as it's crammed with 'industrial-strength' fiction from authors established and new, and only costs £5.99 from Amazon UK, or $10 from

Happy reading - but please don't ask me to re-enact the above excerpt. It would not be pretty.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Special offer at WH Smith

For anyone here in the UK, WH Smith currently have a pretty good special offer. If you buy a copy of The Times newspaper for £1, you get a paperback version of Julian Barnes' Booker-prize winning novel The Sense of an Ending for only £2.99.

The last thing I really need is any more books on my tottering 'to be read' pile, but the temptation was too strong and I bought it. I've no idea if the book is any good or not (Booker prize winning books may be very literary and worthy but they can sometimes be jolly hard to read) but at that sort of price it's got to be worth trying.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Karnataka at the Brewery

On Saturday evening we went out to our very first concert in Cumbria since we 'sort of' moved up there a couple of years ago, and a great night out it was too.

The venue was the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, a wonderful amalgamation of cinema, theatre, bars, restaurant, cafe and art exhibitions housed in (as you might guess) a former brewery. The outside is stunning - they've even kept the old chimney - and inside is quirky and full of character. All the rooms are called after old bits of the brewing trade; we were in the Malt Room which still had all its old cast iron pillars holding up the ceiling.

The band we saw are called Karnataka and were billed as 'celtic folk rock'. They turned out to be rather more rock than either celtic or folk, although you could hear a folky influence in some of the tracks, as well as a distinct nod towards progressive rock from the late 70s and early 80s. Since Dave and I love both those elements it was right up our street and we thoroughly enjoyed every track they played. Not so every member of the audience. One older, very well-dressed couple were clearly expecting the sort of folk that turns up on Radio Two on Sunday afternoons, and walked out after less than five minutes. It seems daft these days not to do some research on YouTube to see what you'll be getting before you go, not to mention a huge waste of money. And they missed a very entertaining two-hour set.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Radge reminder

Just a quick reminder that the Radgepacket 6 launch party is happening in Newcastle upon Tyne next Saturday, between 12 and 3 pm, at The Back Page sports bookshop.

Unfortunately it looks as though, due to family commitments, I won't be able to attend, but the new book will be on sale, the editor will be there to answer questions, there'll be drinks and nibbles, and a chance to mingle with some of the other contributing authors and get them to sign your copy of the book. On top of all that it's a chance to rummage around in The Back Page, which is the closest thing to Aladdin's Cave you'll see this side of the Arabian Nights. ;)

And I'll stick an announcement on here the minute the book is available to buy online.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Birdy word play

Oh, the joys of spam. Mostly of course it's deadly dull - nothing but invitations to play at this or that online casino, notifications from banks I've never joined, and endless offers 'guaranteed' to increase my, erm, length. (One of these days I really must call their bluff on that, but that's another story.)

But every now and then there's a real gem in my spam box, presumably thanks to online translation software.

Yesterday it was the turn of this: "Luxury turkey escapes"

I wondered why anyone would want to tell me that their top-flight (sorry) pet bird had flown the coop, and had visions of the turkey concerned wandering down the road thumbing a lift to Manchester for the weekend. And then I realised it was advertising Turkish holidays.

Once I'd finished giggling I deleted the post along with all the rest, but it really brightened up my day. To whoever sent the email - thanks for the laugh!