Hello, and thank you for visiting my site. I hope that you'll return often and always find something of interest about my world and what inspires me to pick up a pen. (This is a figure of speech, unfortunately. My handwriting is terrible!) Here's what I've been up to recently...
I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster since my last post. Out of the blue came a series of visual disturbances that I convinced myself were TIAs (transient ischaemic attacks or mini strokes). They took the form of a shimmering effect around anything I happened to be looking at and lasted for several minutes each time. Always a reluctant patient, I put off seeking medical advice until frogmarched down to the practice. The G.P. took my self diagnosis seriously and gave me emergency treatment until it became apparent that I had no other stroke related symptoms. She then sent me off for an immediate eye test. BINGO! To cut a very long story short – and I’ve had neurological and ophthalmological tests since to make sure – it appears that my eye muscles were under severe strain from out of date spectacles. That had led to a condition called ‘migraine with aura’.
Have you ever heard of that? I hadn’t. To me, migraine was just a very bad headache and I had had no pain at all. Much better informed now, I’m anxious to spread the word that migraine can manifest itself in a variety of different ways, many of them alarming.
Born with good vision, I came down with scarlet fever whilst still at primary school and have been shortsighted ever since. National Health issue spectacles – brown frames for boys and pink for girls – had metal earpieces that dug in all year round and made the backs of my ears particularly sore in winter. Even when my parents paid for more attractive frames, I still hated wearing the things and they spent more time in my pocket than on my nose. Which child – at least until the arrival of Harry Potter – has ever wanted to be a Speccy Four-Eyes? As a teenager, I worried that ‘boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses’ and so was even less likely to be seen out in them. This persisted through university and into my twenties, when I invested in prescription sun glasses and contact lenses. As often as not, though, I wore neither and only clapped my ordinary spectacles onto my nose when I thought no one was looking. I wasn’t shortsighted enough to bump into things and just bumbled around seeing everything out of focus.
I’ll be truthful. Even now, I’m not happy at the prospect of wearing my new specs more or less full time. However, I’ve been advised that I should and I’ll just have to get used to the idea. After all, it’s a small price to pay for being given a new lease of life. Vanity may at last have given way to common sense. At least, I hope so.
3 August, 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s show at York Barbican, in which all the musicians – including the chap not billed, who played harmonica, flute, saxophone and occasionally drums – gave sparkling performances.
Seeing Al Stewart on stage again, brought back memories of the only other occasions on which I’ve been fortunate enough to see him perform live. Both were way, way back when I was a student in Manchester and I’m no longer certain in which order they came.
Some members of the audience at the Barbican looked a little sceptical when Al related a story about being stranded penniless in New York City, gate crashing a party and spending the night with a girl who was keen to get rid of him in the morning – until she saw Paul Simon, his former London flatmate, and Art Garfunkel arriving in a posh car to pick him up from her apartment. I didn’t doubt him for a moment. On a rare (for me) visit to Les Cousins in Greek Street, Soho, Al was singing when Paul Simon made an unscheduled visit and joined him on the stage. Not only that, his (Paul’s) mother was with him and held his coat while he sang.
Al’s 1969 album Love Chronicles was the first mainstream record release ever to include the word ‘f****ing’. At a charity concert organised by a friend of mine in Manchester, he sang the entire 18-minute title track to the delight of the mainly student audience but the horror of the theatre manager. There was talk of his being banned from the city forever, which obviously didn’t happen. In fact, I believe that he’s there this very evening.
Still a lover of vinyl, I cherish my much played copies of Love Chronicles and of Al’s first best selling album, Bedsitter Images. The above photo was taken not long before I acquired them. It’s been quite a while!
6 May, 2017
It’s always a pleasure to review a show for a local group and last Tuesday evening saw me at Harrogate Theatre for Ripon Amateur Operatic Group’s dress rehearsal of 9 to 5 The Musical. Sitting in the centre of the front row of the Circle and armed with a clipboard, torch and copy of the programme was an interesting, although far from relaxing experience. It’s always an odd feeling to see the cast acting, dancing and singing their hearts out to rows of mostly empty seats and so receiving minimal feedback for their efforts. Wishing to do justice to the performance, I was also acutely conscious that turning my attention away from the stage in order to write notes might cause me to miss some of the action. However, I did my best, sat up until 2.30 a.m. to finish the review in time for the press deadline and kept my fingers crossed that I hadn’t made any major mistakes or omissions.
Delighted to receive some complimentary tickets, I was in the theatre again for the last night of the show and enjoyed it a great deal more. Relaxing in the Stalls, with no decisions to make other than which flavour of ice cream to buy in the interval, was an undiluted pleasure. There were indeed little cameos that I’d missed first time round and the enthusiastic applause from the audience at the end of each big number was very well deserved.
1 May, 2017
Round about a year ago, I wrote about finding a fifty year old airmail letter in a second hand book and being so intrigued by it that I just had to find out more. (Scroll down to ‘Bookmarking the Past’ if you’d like to read all about that.)
Imagine my astonishment when an old friend came across a postcard that I’d written to him around the same time. Only he and I understand the significance of the text and I plan to keep it that way, but I’m staggered that he found it after all those years. It’s caused me to wonder how many more of my missives are dotted around the world and whether they’ll ever turn up to delight or mortify me.
27 April, 2017
Like all writers, I expect, I’m keen to expand my readership. However, the revelation that sparked this winning letter in the May 2017 of Writing Magazine came as a bolt from the blue.
4 April, 2017
I very much enjoyed being part of the line up of York Writers for the last HUB event of this year’s York Literature Festival. Each of us was allowed ten minutes and I chose to read a couple of very short stories from my Anyone For Murder? collection. They seemed to go down well with the audience. Well, at least everyone laughed in the right places.
Paul Mulryne, seen in the photo above taking a breather, did a great job as compere.
It was a shame that some of the people originally down to take part were unable to make it, but the rest of us agreed that it had been a very worthwhile experience. Roll on HUB 2018!
30 March, 2017
Yes, I know. I’d have given the title an apostrophe too, but it was an editorial decision.
That said, the anthology is hot off the presses and a great read. Twenty-five stories and poems have been contributed by members of York Writers. Between us, I hope that we’ve catered for all tastes. Well, not quite all, but a fair few.
My own story, No Time For Contemplation, is about a puppy farmer getting her comeuppance – and not before time either! Anyone who exploits helpless animals is a villain in my book – books, actually. (One of the characters in my novel Shadows of the Past comes to a very unpleasant end, although his callous attitude to creatures that he considers to be vermin is only one of his crimes.)
Anyway, we of York Writers hope to raise our profile through this collection, which is available through Amazon and will also be on sale at our Showcase Event at York Theatre Royal next week. Please come along and support us.
20 March, 2017
Tomorrow evening will see us in the De Grey Rooms, next to York Theatre Royal.
Writing a book is only the first step on what can be a long and rocky road.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers and hope to pick up a few pointers ourselves from the other writers we welcome to this session.
19 March, 2017
Forget the Edinburgh Fringe! York Literature Festival has its HUB, an opportunity for local writers of all kinds to shine alongside the main events.
On Monday 20th March, the Promoting Yorkshire Authors group, (some of us are shown above), will be joining York Novelists to share our experiences of different paths to publication.
We hope that as many other writers as possible will come along to join us and add their own experiences to the mix.
On Wednesday, 29th March, York Writers will present a Showcase of members’ work and I’m looking forward to reading a short story from my Anyone For Murder? collection.
Other contributions will be many and various. (Not all of them met the deadline for the posters!) It will be a very entertaining evening and we hope for a good turn out. Alongside the other books, copies of our new anthology should be on sale. It’s just about ready to go to press, so fingers are firmly crossed at the moment. Watch this space!
6 March, 2017
The March 2017 issues of these popular Yorkshire magazines feature two very different contributions from the Cobbett household.
The Dalesman has a ‘filler’ in its ‘Signs and Wonders’ column, a rather unsavoury gem captured by my husband last autumn when he dropped me off in Malton for the Ryedale Book Festival. Has he been reading my Easy Money For Writers And Wannabes, I wonder?
Down Your Way, which specialises in nostalgia, has my article about family mementos. We probably have far more than our fair share of those!
26 February, 2017