Obstacles

Once the old man had got over the shock of his cancer diagnosis, he made a decision: he’d sell the two paperbacks he’d recently written to raise money for Cancer Research UK.  During his career he’d made many decisions and, having made them, was accustomed to taking the steps necessary to bring them to fruition.   Inevitably, some ideas had proved easy to implement and others had been troublesome but, generally speaking, he was accomplished at overcoming obstacles and steering  things […]

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The good old days?

I went to school a long time ago (correction: a very long time ago) and I have just found a document dated December 1955.  It is headed plaintively, ‘Please read this’ and it is from the Principal (headmaster in ordinary language) to parents. My secondary school was a minor public school (in other words private), boys only, where trouser pockets had to be sewn up, no footballs were allowed (rugby balls yes, footballs no), prefects were called praepositors, there was […]

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Nature or Nurture?

I thought the nature-nurture controversy was over with, happily, nurture coming out on top.  However, I read an interesting piece recently about coaching football players.  It reported that, at a recent meeting of the Premier League Academy, there was a discussion about how to create players who were equally skilled with both feet.  One of the academy coaches apparently said, ‘Some kids are naturally two-footed and some are not. Coaching has nothing to do with it’.  Of course, I wasn’t […]

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The fait accompli

Robin had requested the meeting and, having done so, realised there was no going back.  The Canon’s study was far from welcoming, a large room with a high ceiling and an ornate plaster cornice.  Despite its size, it was overwhelmed with furniture; a sofa, three generous armchairs, an oak rolltop desk and a scattering of side-tables.  The walls were lined with shelves with books stacked in higgledy-piggledy arrangements.  They looked dusty, uninviting, and Robin wondered how many of them had […]

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How I write short stories

Why might you read this?   Because you want to write short stories and would like some advice?  A bit unlikely given that most people don’t write short stories, or even long ones come to that.  Or maybe you’re just curious, amazed that anyone would write short stories.  Or perhaps you read everything I write, hoping that one day you’ll find something interesting/useful. Ah well, here goes. Step 1  Starting (If you don’t start, you don’t start) I usually start by […]

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A letter from me (age 86) to me (age 18)

Dear Peter I sometimes wonder what it would be like to meet up with you for a chat.  A bit awkward I guess, with both of us feeling our way.   Anyway, since we can’t meet (if we could, would we recognise each other?) I thought I’d write you a note – brief because I seem to remember you had a short attention span.  By the way, if you ever get around to reading my life story, One thing just led […]

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The problems of being a has-been

Two things have happened to me recently that have not happen for ages.  Firstly, I have been invited to run a session about learning styles and, secondly, I have been asked for a biography with a recent photograph (of me, not of something else).  You might think these two things are connected but in fact they are from two people who do not know of each other’s existence.  It’s purely coincidental that these two requests have arrived within days of […]

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A lesson learnt

I’ve always been a keen advocate of learning from experience.  I call it ‘everyday learning’ to distinguish it from ‘formal learning’ when, say, you’re studying, listening to a talk or on a course.  Most people claim to be learning all the time (‘you learn something new every day’) and that’s undoubtedly true at a subliminal level.  However, I’m always sceptical when, for example, politicians claim that ‘lessons have been learnt’.  I always want them to provide specific examples of what […]

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My Culture Fix

Every Saturday in the Times’s supplement, Saturday Review, there is a page called ‘My Culture Fix’ where a celebrity answers questions about their cultural life.  I’m waiting patiently for the Times to invite me but realising I’ll probably wait forever, I thought I’d pretend they’ve seen the error of their ways.  My answers go like this: My Favourite author or book:  William Boyd, with Ian McEwan a close second. The book I’m reading:  Old Filth by Jane Gardam. The book […]

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Techniques

  In the past few days I’ve spent hours doing a course on Zoom that promised to transform my life.  Quite a promise, running the risk of over-promising and under-delivering (and so it proved).  I would be ‘emptied of all past worries and anxieties’.   I’d be a ‘new me, free to be, free to act’.  It would be ‘like opening my fridge and finding the Grand Canyon’. Heady stuff. On the course, there were many claims I found hard to […]

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Latest Article

Music, the confessions of a low middlebrow

  Last night I was at Wigmore Hall listening to a concert given by Iestyn Davies (countertenor) and Thomas Dunford (lute) and, not for the first time, I reflected on my musical likes and dislikes. My wife and I often go to Wigmore — certainly once a week, sometimes twice — so I have plenty of time to mull things over.  Particularly so this week when, in addition to last night’s concert, I will have listened to music performed at […]

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Latest Blog

Obstacles

Once the old man had got over the shock of his cancer diagnosis, he made a decision: he’d sell the two paperbacks he’d recently written to raise money for Cancer Research UK.  During his career he’d made many decisions and, having made them, was accustomed to taking the steps necessary to bring them to fruition.   Inevitably, some ideas had proved easy to implement and others had been troublesome but, generally speaking, he was accomplished at overcoming obstacles and steering  things […]

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There is no such thing as a non-learner, only inappropriate learning opportunities.