somebody else wrote it

fishermen head out to sea in senegal

Ted Thompson writes about writing and selling his first book.

As a good rule of thumb it’s usually a full year between when you turn in your final edits and when your book comes out. I, for one, was rather vocal among friends about this glacial pace…

I know that feeling… However…

The upshot of this for the writer is you have a year to move on, start something else, and distance yourself from the material. By the time your first grade teacher and all your exes are reading it, it feels a little like somebody else wrote it. And I’ve found that to be very helpful. link

I think he might be right. Plenty more good stuff in among his piece on Salon.

Sketch of fishermen in Senegal by me.

400,000 words

sketch of the north dakar skyline in senegal

Paperless writer and blogger Jamie Todd Rubin writes about the writing process in The Daily Beast. He wrote a staggering 400,000 words in a year… In among his six writing tips, which are well worth a look, I’ve been thinking more and more about the last one on his list,

Have multiple things to work on. At any given time, I may have two pieces of fiction and several nonfiction items that I am working on. I feel unmotivated to work on the short story, rather than do nothing, I simply switch to the novel draft or a nonfiction article. This helps most often on the days where even planning doesn’t work out, and I find myself exhausted at 10 p.m. with no desire to work on whatever it was I worked the day before. Switching gears helps me move forward. When I’m done, I almost always feel good about what I’ve written. link

Sketch of the north Dakar skyline by me.

working life of brian eno

Dakar Senegal Tigo shed and coffeeshop popup sketch drawing

Snippets from an interview with Brian Eno in the New Yorker. Firstly, a compliment,

Eno told me that he heard from a fan who manages a supermarket in London and decided to play “Discreet Music” there. A week later, Eno went to visit him. “He said, ‘It was lovely—people stayed much longer in the shop and bought far less.’ I thought that was a very nice thing to say about the music.”

Digging over compost,

I have a trick that I used in my studio, because I have these twenty-eight-hundred-odd pieces of unreleased music, and I have them all stored in iTunes,” Eno said during his talk at Red Bull. “When I’m cleaning up the studio, which I do quite often—and it’s quite a big studio—I just have it playing on random shuffle. And so, suddenly, I hear something and often I can’t even remember doing it. Or I have a very vague memory of it, because a lot of these pieces, they’re just something I started at half past eight one evening and then finished at quarter past ten, gave some kind of funny name to that doesn’t describe anything, and then completely forgot about, and then, years later, on the random shuffle, this thing comes up, and I think, Wow, I didn’t hear it when I was doing it. And I think that often happens—we don’t actually hear what we’re doing. . . . I often find pieces and I think, This is genius. Which me did that? Who was the me that did that?”

On ambition,

Though Eno drew and painted at both Ipswich and Winchester, he left school with no plans to become a fine artist. “I thought that art schools should just be places where you thought about creative behavior, whereas they thought an art school was a place where you made painters,” he said later.

I think negative ambition is a big part of what motivates artists,” Eno told me. “It’s the thing you’re pushing against. When I was a kid, my negative ambition was that I didn’t want to get a job.” link

Sketch of a coffee shack in Dakar by me.

according to wire reports…


A few months ago, I was looking for something to remember our time in Rwanda. I have a tonne of photos, but wanted something else. Something different. Something in some way connected with news. With the wire I created when we lived there. And this seemed to nail it. It’s an original AP wirephoto sent on July 1, 1962. The day when Rwanda and Burundi became separate and independent countries.


I’ve not decided what to do with it yet. At some point, I plan to print several photos I took while living in Rwanda and do something with them. Maybe I can include this artefact in that.


It’s not much in itself – a poorly drawn, basic map, a brief report, some scrawls and dates on the back of the image. However, it was dispatched at a point in time, 52 years ago today, when these two countries were born. In the literal sense of the term, this is a news item. I think that’s why I’m glad I bought it.

In 2014, it’s worth remembering that in it’s day the wirephoto machine was just as revolutionary as Twitter, Instagram et al. And journalists and newspaper readers the world over still rely to a very large extent on “the wires” for news.

Happy independence day(s) to Rwanda and Burundi.

inside the Stamboul train

Graham Greene Stamboul Train paperback

I'm not sure if this is a thing or not, but

Goat postcard inside Graham Greene's Stamboul train bought in Oxfam York UK

Message on postcard inside Graham Green's Stamboul Train bought in Oxfam York UK

who lived at 67

Inscription from a previous owner of Graham Greene's Stamboul Train

UPDATE: So, it is a “thing”

At first glance the two postcards found in a religious book at an Oxfam shop looked fairly unremarkable.

But on closer inspection they turned out to be from an important poet to a friend in Yorkshire and now they are expected to sell for up to £800 at an auction.

The cards were sent in 1930 by one of Britain’s finest First World War poets, Siegfried Sassoon to a friend named V.W.Garratt at St Clements Road, South, Harrogate. They were brought into the Oxfam shop in Herne Hill, London. link

And, there’s more,

ask a lock picker


About a year ago, I managed to break into a combination lock suitcase (answer: it’s very easy, if time consuming) but I’ve never had a go at picking a door lock before. I wanted to know how this might be done. Lock picking is a hobby for many. There are tonnes of videos demonstrating various locks and techniques. So, I asked a lock picker what this lock is and how I might pick it. He obliged. It turns out that this is a euro-profile pin tumbler lock. They started being used about 150 years ago, are primarily found in Europe and can be picked with modern-day pick sets. And, it really doesn’t look too hard to do.

one blue plastic table at a time

Pho Thin on Lo Duc street in Hanoi a traditional beef noodle soup kitchen par excellence

I dunno what it is, but whenever well-meaning “experts” discuss Vietnamese food, set up programmes, events and symposiums to promote it, they seem hellbent on sanitising, standardising, slaughtering and sucking all life from it,

Firstly, we have to build the theories of the ‘Vietnamese kitchen’ to know about the unique identities of Vietnamese cuisine. Then, we can standardise Vietnamese food and restaurants, and establish culinary development companies like the Thai Royal Company which operates 8,000 restaurants around the world. link

Apparently, there is also something called “The international symposium on promoting Vietnamese cuisine”.

Photo from the back bench in Phở Thìn, Hà Nội

war is peace


This is a manuscript from George Orwell.


And this is a manuscript from Samuel Beckett. Talk about ruthless editing.

…The first few pages are full of writing, all of it deleted by the author’s hand. Then the doodles begin to appear.

“When inspiration ran low he had a tendency to do his little vignettes. He had a certain artistic talent. He did rather good little character sketches.

“They are there, I think, to keep the pen moving, and to stimulate the mind into more movement.” link


the everyday

richmond on thames terrace gardens richmond hill london park benches and walk

I visited three locations in London at the weekend.

london kensington bollard

They feature in the novel I’m working on.

edgware road

I wanted to get the details right. Or at least noted down to use later if needed.


As I took notes and photographs of these ordinary places, I was reminded of James Hart Dyke’s paintings in his Year with MI6 exhibition from 2011,

…There is a sense of mystery, the secrecy, the subtlety, that sense that you look at a scene and it actually isn’t quite what you think it is or has an aspect that you’re not aware of, which comes through rather strongly.

It also makes clear that this isn’t James Bond racing around conducting his own operations as he sees fit. There is a strong aspect of the everyday about it,” Sir John Scarlett, former head of MI6, said of the exhibition.

That’s what I’ve learned most during this process. To see the extraordinary in the ordinary.