Once again I've missed a week, partly because there's been illness here (it's half-term week, whaddya expect?), partly because I wanted to leave Lisa Ratcliffe's name up at the top of my posts for a while. It's remarkable how many other writer-bloggers posted about her - and most of them had not met her. Somehow, because her voice was so vibrant, they felt as if they had. This blogging world can feel like a hothouse of friendship (companionship like forced rhubarb?!) - it's extraordinary how supported and understood one can feel when exchanging news and views with people you've never met. There are several writers out there that I would hope to meet in person one day.
Last week I saw the second of Terry Pratchett's programmes on Alzheimer's - which my regular readers know is one of the topics I bang the drum about, especially as my aunt died from it, almost a year ago now. I missed the first Terry Pratchett programme because I was in London, but made sure I saw last week's. It was - well, you can hardly say 'enjoyable', can you, given the subject matter? Yes, you can, actually, because TP is so feisty and articulate - he's a joy to listen to. The programme itself saw him go to America in search of any hope of potential cure for the 'embuggerance' as he calls it. Lots of flashy hospitals, flashy equipment, doctors with unnervingly flashy smiles. Lots of chat. A horrible sequence where a vacant-eyed ancient Admiral was injected in the back of the neck with what I can only describe as a snake-oil remedy by a doctor I wouldn't trust to stick the stamp on an envelope for me, so oleaginous was he. The wretched Admiral was tilted back in a swing-chair for the drug to rush to what was left of his brain, then tilted back, still smiling bewilderedly. Everyone in the room nodded brightly, claiming there was a visible difference - not to me, there wasn't. The lights hadn't gone on in the Admiral's head-piece, as far as I could see. Back in Britain, in Aberdeen, Terry had a very hi-tech brain-scan done. So what? In glorious technicolour, it highlighted those parts that were damaged. One of the doctors he spoke to was brave and honest enough to admit that TP's form of dementia, which is kind enough at present to only be damaging aspects of visual perception and co-ordination, WILL, in the end, progress to full-blown Alzheimer's. TP came away from the whole experience determined to make every day count. He maintained a relentless upbeat chippiness in the face of what confronts him. His assistant expressed more devastation and pessimism than he did. TP is clearly a hero. The media is now full, thanks to him, of reports about the rise in the rate of this disease and the shocking, disgraceful lack of resources devoted to it. When will this Government stop shoring up banks and funding pointless foreign wars and get its priorities in order?
Right, rant over. Till the next time.
Let's have something cheering: one of the nominees for this year's Waterstone's Children's Book Prize is Rob Stephens. His story is uplifting because he's managed to combine being an airline pilot with writing his children's book, 'The Mapmaker's Monsters'. Good on him. Even in these days of economic attrition, now really biting the publishing industry, good writing can still make it through. My joy at his success is not unalloyed, however (can any writer honestly feel unalloyed pleasure at somebody else's success? Remember what Gore Vidal said: 'Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.') What is daunting is to hear that Rob Stevens managed to write his book 'On trains, in the back of taxis and in hotel rooms in Stockholm, Oslow, Istanbul and Paris' - wow, glamour AND commitment - how sickening is that? He wasn't 'a great reader as a child' but now says 'Reading is not just a necessary life skill: there is nothing better in the world than being lost in a good book. When I look at my son Dylan's imagination, it's so ripe. If children aren't given the encouragement to use that readiness to absorb things it's a real waste.' See more about him at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/4699275
At the end of next month, the Oxford Literary Festival takes place. Once again the brochure is slow to appear but the details are up on their website. I've already booked for several events, mainly with a historical fiction bent. Top of the list is C.J. Sansom - regular Literascribees know he's one of my favourites. I'm really looking forward to this.
Now, it's nearly the end of half-term week and I have to go back to nag-mode: loads of homework/coursework needs to be confronted ...