Blog hop

A culture filled with bloggers thinks differently about politics or public affairs, if only because more have been forced through the discipline of showing in writing why A leads to B.

Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid


A number of years ago I was living alone in the big old house that I’d bought in England and I decided that it didn’t make sense to occupy all that space by myself. I wasn’t sure that I wanted someone to move in permanently so I searched for other solutions, and I found the perfect one in the form of the Digs List. Can you imagine anything more amazing? For a few weeks or a few months at a time, extraordinary people, mostly actors, came to share my house with me while they did their fantastic thing at the local theatres. And when they came home from the theatre I got to bask in some of their gorgeousness. And one of the most gorgeous of all was the amazing Vera Chok from, who kindly nominated me for this blog hop.

Vera is one of the most versatile, most prolific, most artistically ambitious (and I mean “ambitious” in the very best sense of the word) people that I’ve ever met. She acts, she writes, she sings, she plays the piano, she cooks, she dances. And she lives. She lives fantastically. She is a creator of beautiful things and a bringer-together of beautiful people. She is one of the reasons why I hope to live back in the UK again one day; if I’m there then I’ll be able to see some more of the amazing things she does.

But for the moment I am here, and I have to answer a few questions to meet the requirements of this blog hop. So here goes.

What are you working on?

At the moment I’m working on improving my ability to finish things. I’m very good at starting things. I’ve started a novel about the historical inhabitants of my house in Suffolk, England, inspired by its 168-year history of putting a roof over the head of some astonishing – and mostly single – women. I’ve started – and got some way towards finishing – a short story called The Laughter Shop. (I’m dying to know what happens to its main character so I must get on with that…). I’ve started a children’s book about a boy with a magic dictionary. Ooh, and just over a year ago, I started this blog, which I love for the fact that each post gives me a sense of completion even though the whole site will always be a work in progress. So I’m working on trying to take the wise writerly advice of the wise writer, Neil Gaiman, who said, “You have to finish things – that’s what you learn from. You learn by finishing things.” One day I’ll finish something and I’ll learn what he means.

I’m also working on trying to make my photography better. I’ve always been ever so slightly obsessed with taking photographs but now that my lovely man has furnished me with a good camera I have to try to take good photographs. So I’m learning on the job, the job being to document the lovely places I get to visit and trying to capture them as best I can. I’ve started selling some of my images as greetings cards and stuff on Redbubble, here.  (I’m told that they make great gifts!). I also want to make some pictures available to an online stock photo company so that they can be used, under license, by magazines, newspapers, bloggers and anyone else who needs images to add to their words. However the company that I’m interested in registering with requires that I provide them with ID which shows my nationality, residency visa and residential address. Now, given that I have an Australian passport, a Swiss residency visa, a permanent home in England, a temporary home in France and an address that I’m soon to move to Pakistan, this is proving more complicated that I’d have hoped! But it’s a project and it’s ongoing.

Ooh, and I’m working on a photobook  about my mother-in-law’s life so far which I’m hoping to present to her for a very special birthday she’s having later this year. (She wouldn’t thank me for telling you which one.)

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Hm, now that question kind of assumes that I know what the genre of my work actually is… In talking about “my work” here I guess I’m talking about my blog, and one thing I’ve been very keen to do with my blog is to avoid too much specificity. The blog is about my life as an expat, and given that I’ve been an expat for more years than I lived in my native country, that covers quite a few topics. I’ve written about feminism but I don’t want it to be a feminist blog. I’ve written about infertility but I don’t want it to be an infertility blog. I’ve written about personal stuff but I don’t want it to be a writing-as-personal-catharsis blog. Eugh, I really don’t want that.

I guess I could describe it as observational. I do and see stuff and describe what I’ve done and seen. To quote the fantastic Neil Gaiman again, “There will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you… but you are the only you.” I guess that’s how my work differs from others of its genre. It’s written by me.

Why do you create what you do?

You know that age-old question about what you’d save if your house was on fire? My answer has for a long time been my diaries. I don’t mean, “Dear Diary, Today I had another dull day at home” kind of diaries. I mean the tiny diaries that I’ve been keeping for many years now (I mean seriously tiny, so tiny that they drive my BFF to distraction, but I’ve always resisted her attempts to get me to write in bigger ones), which detail no more than where I’ve been on any given day, and with whom. I can spend hours looking through those diaries, reminiscing about times and places and people and events. They bring back so much that I’d otherwise forget.

I guess I’m writing this blog for the same reason. I’m planning on living a long, long life and having many adventures along the way. And just in case I don’t have anyone around to make me a photobook for my 90th birthday – ooh, sorry, mother-in-law, it slipped! – I’m making the book for myself as I go along. Only 47 years of blogging left until my blog reaches book form. Woohoo!

How does your creative process work?

At the moment I rather fear that it doesn’t! For me, as for many others I suspect, writing begets writing. (In fact I don’t just suspect that it works this way for others too. I just googled the expression “writing begets writing” and got 892,000 hits in 0.19 seconds). My problem at the moment is that taking photos doesn’t beget writing. It begets taking more photos. So I’m giving myself some space to concentrate on the photos (some of which you can see on my Flickr page here) and sometime soon – 2015 will be my year, I think – I shall find a happy balance between the two. And much writing and many photos will be begot.

Oh, and the other thing that I have to acknowledge about my creative process is that is that it works much, MUCH more efficiently if I have a deadline. In April, while I was doing the A to Z Challenge, I wrote 30 blog posts. Yep, that’s one a day, every day. And in the four months since April I’ve written precisely three posts, including this one. Someone give me a goddamn deadline already!


And now, to meet the other requirement of the blog hop, I get to tell you about a couple of lovely writer friends whose blogs I highly recommend you have a look at. Within weeks of arriving in Switzerland two years ago I found myself working as a reporter at a conference at the International Conference Centre in Geneva. And then I found myself chatting with Angie, the lovely Canadian reporter sitting next to me. And then I found that she’d become a great friend. And then I discovered that as well as writing, she also cooks and knits and sews and paints. Angie’s blog currently concentrates on the cooking but she’s thinking about expanding out to include her other creative pursuits too. Check her work out here at

My other nominee is someone I met at the place where I’ve met most of my favourite people in Switzerland – the Geneva International Book Club. The first time I heard Briony introduce herself to the group I knew she was smart and funny and I wanted her to keep attending. And she did – hooray! And then, joy of joys, she started writing a blog and the rest of the world could also appreciate how smart and funny she is, and also learn of the creative ways in which she’s making her life fun and memorable and worthwhile while simultaneously staving off her fearofthereaper. Be sure to check it out.

And now, dear people, my blog is hopped !

Thank you so much for reading.


There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway

A couple of years ago I was tired of the spectre of writing.  All my life I’d dreamed of being a writer, but now that I had the time to write the words weren’t forthcoming and I was sick of the constant niggling feeling that whatever I was doing, I should really have been writing instead. I thought at that time that if some fairy godmother or genie in a bottle had given me permission to never write again, I’d have been relieved.

I do not feel that way anymore.

Have you ever seen the movie Quills? Geoffrey Rush plays the scandalous Marquis de Sade, a (real-life) writer and revolutionary in 17th-century France whose libidinous acts landed him in prison, where he spent much of his life and did most of his writing. When, as part of his punishment, the Marquis de Sade is deprived of pen and paper, he takes to writing with wine on the bed sheets, or with his own blood and excrement on the walls.

The whole film is a treatise on the act and importance of writing. Apparently the tune that the Marquis de Sade constantly hums is the children’s song Au Clair de la Lune, the second line of which translates as “lend me your quill so I can write a word”. Apparently every line that was cut from the film’s script made it into the film in one way or another, either written on clothing or bed sheets or on the walls of de Sade’s prison cell. Not a word that was written was lost or wasted.

Not every writer achieves the Marquis de Sade’s notoriety. Not every writer is even published, and some successful writers are scathingly critical of the fact that in these days of blogging and self-publishing, every wannabe writer can find a voice. I don’t think Milan Kundera meant it in a positive way when he wrote, in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting:

The irresistible proliferation of graphomania among politicians, taxi drivers, childbearers, lovers, murderers, thieves, prostitutes, officials, doctors, and patients shows me that everyone without exception bears a potential writer within him, so that the entire human species has good reason to go down the streets and shout: ‘We are all writers!’

But sometimes the words that we write can make a difference. They can make a difference to those around us, or just to ourselves. Or, like the words that sprung from Eve Ensler’s pen when she sat down to write The Vagina Monologues, they can make a difference to millions around the world.

If a genie in a bottle were to grant me three wishes now, I would not wish never to have to write again, but rather that I will always have the right words to say what I need to say, and the tools with which to say them. I admire the Marquis de Sade’s determination, but I think I’d rather drink my wine and leave my blood flowing in my veins so that I might write another day.

Give me a quill or a computer. And leave the rest to me.