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Archive for March, 2010

Audrey Neill

March 29, 2010 Comments off

Antipathy among women to female characters is something I see occasionally, Audrey. Maybe you can explain it; I can’t. However, I will say in the lady’s defence that the character has changed from the earlier books. She’s much more responsible these days, and in my view (okay, my male view) more likeable. Enjoy Easter in Gullane, and sure, if you see me, say hello. (That’s very close to the title of one of Bob Dylan’s nicest songs.)

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Julie Dowling

March 26, 2010 Comments off

Thanks for the compliment, but that’s not what I set out to do. Be sure of this; there are certain characters who are sacrosanct, and that person is one. Your reaction’s a wee bit over the top, no? We’re not talking Tiger Woods, here. (Incidentally, in days of long ago was it Esso that used the slogan ‘Put a Tiger in your tank’? They wouldn’t dare. Would they?)

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Pauline Martin

March 24, 2010 Comments off

So will I, Pauline, so will I. Heath said he would do it in 1973; I was there when an MoD minister came up to look at possible sites in Glasgow. Never happened. Callaghan promised dispersal five years later, then picked the smallest department he could find, ODA, and moved some of it, screaming, to East Kilbride. But this time, Bootstrap Bill actually made the promise during his Budget Speech; if his lot are returned they may find it difficult to wriggle out of that. There’s another subtle difference. This time the proposal is based on cost-cutting, not job creation.

However, even that has the seeds of deception. Half of the 1000 Ministry of Justice jobs that Darling waved before the House  will be moved out of central London, but will remain in the greater London area. The other half? Well, that’s a little vague. The MoJ press release that followed the Budget includes the telling phrase, ‘where value for money is demonstrated’. In short, the proposal may have been floated , but already we know where the lifeboat is. And by the way, it’s all part of a programme that won’t be completed until 2015, in the unlikely event that it ever is.

With any luck, this will be academic. An MP friend told me months ago that the big day will be May 6, and the media seem to agree with her. Sooner the better, then we can have the hung Parliament that   may offer the best route to complete Scottish separation from Westminster.

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The Budget

March 24, 2010 Comments off

I’ve just had the displeasure of listening to the Chancellor of the Exchequer deliver his annual UK Budget statement, or rather listen to him deliver an hour-long election address. The whole exercise was a sham pure window dressing, with the bad news hidden out of sight and the public statement reduced to a series of headlines.  Still, there were a couple of items that held my attention.

The announcement of a tax disclosure deal with Belize drew great laughs from Darling’s side of the House. That’s the first time I can recall a Chancellor using a Budget statement to target an individual on party political grounds. Quite a precedent, but you can be sure that at some time in the future, it will come back to bite his government on the arse. The Tories aren’t the only crew with wealthy backers.

Then there was the announcement that 15,000 civil service jobs are going to be relocated outside London. That one always goes down well in principle; civil servants are popular whipping boys. But let’s look at it another way. Up to 15,000 people, 15,000 families, are going to be given a stark choice: up-root yourselves, take your children out of their schools and yourselves out of your circle of friends, and move to an area  not of your choice, or kiss your job, kiss your livelihood goodbye. But be clear, we’re not talking about the Whitehall mandarins here; we’re talking about the lower and middle segments of the operation, the ‘ordinary’ people. The top cats will still be kept handy, at their masters’ beck and call. That’s the social backlash of Bootstrap Bill’s throwaway, vote-winner, announcement. It’s the mark of the man and of the unelected, creatively and morally bankrupt administration to which he belongs.

The one upside of today’s pantomime is that finally the decks are cleared and we can have our election. May 6 is the chosen date, and I’m counting them down already. I’m not anticipating automatic change of government, but by God we need to send a river through the stables.

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Sharon Robinson

March 24, 2010 Comments off

Just got your feedback and I cannot delay in replying. First, A Rush of Blood will be published in June. Second, you actually  want me to kill Andy Martin’s wife, a mother of two? Surely not. She’s a lovely girl, even if she is bored to her back teeth to be stuck in a suburb of Perth looking after weans and ironing white shirts. Trust me, Sharon, Karen will survive Skinner 20. But will Andy? That’s the question you should be asking.

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Fiona MacGregor

March 24, 2010 Comments off

Thanks, Fiona, but I have no plans for telly, and I will resist any that are put to me. Of the people with the name you suggest as Andy Martin, one was a  rugby international and the other appears on talent shows on telly. If you push me to it, I’d rather have the rugby version.

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Kevin Waddell

March 23, 2010 Comments off

cheers to you, kevin, i appreciate that very much. [who the hell needs capital letters anyway?] you may be pleased to know that I’ve started thinking about primavera 3. at the moment i have a title and that’s all, but that’s, as maria von trapp didn’t really say, a very good place to start.

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Kathryn Jardine

March 22, 2010 Comments off

Good morning, kinswoman. You had no need for hesitation, for yes, that really is my name, and so is the other one. I hope that you manage that return trip soon. Meantime, carry on enjoying being a Jardine in Victoria. I’m damn sure I would.

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Rush of Blood launch

March 20, 2010 Comments off

I’ve posted a provisional launch schedule for A Rush of Blood, in June. It’s pretty limited as it stands, but more gigs may be added as time goes on. Click ‘Events’ on the right, to view.

Any thoughts on omissions would be welcomed, even more so if they went directly to enquiries@headline.co.uk.

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Tired but happy

March 20, 2010 Comments off

Those who’ve been to any of my gigs will probably know what ‘the two magic words’ are. For those who don’t, the answer’s quite simple: the first is ‘The’ and the second is ‘End’. No, they never appear in the published version, but I take huge pleasure in keying them in whenever I finish a manuscript.

I did it again this week, on a work that for now at least with continue to be known as Skinner 21. It’s best that way, since ‘A Rush of Blood’, as Skinner 20 is titled,won’t be published until June. that’s how far ahead my schedule is: not a boast, a simple statement of fact. As a result I now have three still unpublished works in the pipeline.

The next thing I plan to do is pause for a long, considered breath, hit some golf balls, and go to the gym quite often. After that, I’ll start on Primavera 3. When will that be published? On the current schedule we’re looking at late 2011, early 2012.

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I am not a Chelsea fan

March 17, 2010 Comments off

This one’s for the Brits, mainly. I don’t use this blog to wind people up as a rule, but on occasion, why the hell not?

Why does every Chelsea defeat always end with John Terry, for me the second least likeable man in British football after Rafa Benitez, in the referee’s face? ‘Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser,’ I know, but there are times when you need the maturity to be able to walk away and take it like a gentleman.

The fact is, Chelsea proved last night what I’ve been saying to my CFC supporting editor and pal all season. They may win the Premier League but if they do it will be on the basis of luck, strength, and bullying the wee teams, not through exceptional skill and certainly not through character. They were outplayed last night by a team that’s well short of the best in Europe, and as always at the end their discipline let them down. Drogba is, I say it again, a fifteen and a half stone Jessie. When he’s manhandled by the likes of Lucio and Samuel he should be winning those contests, but he doesn’t have the know-how or the balls. How would those guys have got on against an Alan Shearer? No contest. How will they get on against Wayne Rooney? Badly. Yet all Drogba does is go to ground rather than fight for the ball and win it. No, not true. Occasionally he’ll stamp on someone from behind.

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John Whiteoak

March 11, 2010 Comments off

Having just stayed the course with a BBC1 drama called Five Days, which seemed to drift off into confusion, as if the writer had run out of ideas about half way through Day Four, and decided to rescue herself by killing one of  the main protagonists, I am inclined to agree with you. But if he ever does, it’ll be on my terms, which means in effect, that he never will.

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Bob Fyall

March 11, 2010 Comments off

Yes.

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Jim Spence

March 11, 2010 Comments off

A month ago, I’d have said a flat out ‘No’ to that question. But just lately I’ve started to  wonder; if I did want to do that, how? I’ve done it at least once already, so it shouldn’t be beyond me. In fact, I’ve just figured out a way.

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John Hunter

March 11, 2010 Comments off

Guys like your namesake, of that generation, never stopped working; they became legends, as in the case of an Edinburgh journo called George Miller. And hey, if real people can get mixed up over first names, then why not fictional characters?

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Sara Cleveland

March 11, 2010 Comments off

Well d0ne there, you identified a few writers that even I didn’t notice, but you didn’t get Sandy McCall Smith, who arrived as two people in one car.

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The snow in Spain falls mainly on Emporda

March 11, 2010 Comments off
You may have heard via telly of large parts of Catalunya having been hit by a blizzard on Monday. Well, that was us. It brought down the main power line for much of the region, and we without juice from 4pm Monday until 8pm yesterday evening, Wednesday. Since everything needs leccy to work these days, that meant without heat or the ability to cook. It also meant that the entire commercial life of much of the comerc of Emporda came to a standstill for two full days. With temperatures at rock bottom, and seriously cold and hungry, we found a single restaurant on Tuesday evening that  had a gas kitchen , was lit by a generator and heated by a patio heater brought indoors.
The adventure started as I was leaving to collect family from Girona airport. I didn’t get 5km out of town before I had to turn back, in quite the worst conditions I have ever experienced. As it happened, the airport was closed and the flight diverted to Reus,  south of Barcelona. Up to 50cm of snow fell, very quickly. Much of it is still there, although the roads are clear and the trains are running again.
Eileen says that I should offer a public thank you to the people of the electricity company who must have worked flat out in horrendous conditions to get us back on line. She’s right and I’m happy to do so. Also muchas gracias to the people of Hostal el Roser, who gave us succour in our hour of need.
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