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17 August 2009 Entry: "Mysteries"

I went away for a week in July to a small flat in Embleton with a writing buddy. It was very productive - and conveniently situated above a pub. So we had the best of both worlds: work and leisure.
When I arrived back to hundreds of emails I discovered that my proposal for a Durham Mystery in HipHop style, to be co-written with my 22 year old son, had been accepted and commissioned to both our delight and amazement. So now we have to produce a version of Cain and Abel by 9th October. I think itís all part of a big cultural push because Durham has applied for City of Culture 2013. The plays will be performed in and around Durham - one in the Cathedral, one possibly in the market square, and the rest on a specially built stage down on the Sands, the flat grassy meadow beside the river where the Gala happens every year. When we realised that the first draft had to be ready for October and and I gulped, my son said ĎOh well, itís only 20 minutes and we know the story already.í Ah, the optimism of youth. Just what we need.
The story of Cain and Abel seems to be perfect for HipHop style, which is all about battling. The story as set out in the bible is so minimal, itís possible to put any sort of spin on it you want. Weíve had a meeting in Durham with the other writers, and some good conversations between us at home, agreeing the outline and who is going to write which bit. The phrase learning curve seems very appropriate - but itís very exciting and it will feature in future diaries I have no doubt.

Iím delighted that Rosie Bailey let us use one of UA Fanthorpeís poems for August on the website - it is a beautiful, bittersweet poem called Idyll. They were both so supportive to Julia and I, and followed our careers with interest. I have been invited down for the Memorial Service in Wotton-under-Edge in October, which I wouldnít miss for anything. The picture we used was the one we had from The Ropes, itís a very informal friendly picture of UA, but it wasnít until Rosie pointed out that it was the dog referred to in the poem that we realised what a lucky chance that was.

Writers pop up in the most unlikely places. I was on my annual Cornish holiday in August, having an early morning swim and a surfer struck up a conversation with me (the surf action was rather quiet, and he couldnít believe that I was happy to swim without a wet suit). It turns out Bill Laminís the author of a phenomenally successful blog cum book called Letters from the Trenches, based on his grandfatherís letters from the First World War. He releases them on the dates that they were written 90 years ago, so every reader is effectively put in the position of the original family - not knowing whether and when the next letter will arrive. Heís had a huge following and lots of media interest, resulting in agents knocking at his door, which in turn lead to the writing of the book. Thatís the way to utilise the internet for literature - gather interest and then publish the book on the back of it.

And of course, my poetry collection Breath will be published by Flambard in October. Letís hope thereís lots of interest - but somehow I doubt it it will cause a www sensation. Ah well, I didnít write it to pursue fame or fortune, but because I had an urgent need to get to grips with the subject matter, and a desire to write the best poems I could. If someone else finds them worth reading, then thatís an added bonus.

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