Showing posts with label Pendle Hill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pendle Hill. Show all posts

Monday, 19 November 2012

Liz Jones and her instinctive feel for dividing opinion

Liz Jones sparks more controversy than any other journalist I can think of.

She’s infuriated virtually the whole of Exmoor with her excoriating columns about the unfriendliness and the cold and shops closing on Saturday afternoons and she hit the headlines again last week with a piece about the bloggers she met at the recent Mumsnet Blogfest. Just to give you a flavour, she wrote about being in “a tangled teepee of virtual knitters, spinning yarns so they can remain inside their cupcake-scented world.” Oh dear. And completely wrong.

But despite the brickbats that get thrown at her on a regular basis, she’s just been named Columnist of the Year at the British Society of Magazine Editors awards.

Announcing the award last week, BSME chairman Kitty Finstad said she’d been chosen “for her instinctive feel for personal narrative and for dividing opinion – as a good columnist should.”

The BSME are right, I reckon. Liz Jones maddens me more often than not, and I’m a bit sick of her writing about her cats, her horses and RS, her rock star boyfriend (despite all sorts of rumours no one has a clue who he is). But, and it’s a big but, I still turn to her column in the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine before I read the rest of the papers.

Actually, this week I felt a bit sorry for her. Writing in the main bit of the paper, she said she was feeling nostalgic for Exmoor just a week after selling her stunning house. She’s now moved back to London, but is missing the country already, the wildlife, the space and the peace and quiet.

I know how she feels. I love the city, but even now there are days when I yearn to be living in the middle of nowhere once more. It’s fantastic to be able to walk into Oxford to meet a friend for a coffee or to see the latest (brilliant) James Bond movie. But I still miss the autumn afternoons when we strode up Pendle Hill (above) and saw no one at all apart from the odd fell walker and countless sheep.

PS. Back in the days when Liz Jones was features editor of the Evening Standard, she asked me to write a freelance piece about living in France. I never met her (we only spoke on the phone) but she was easily one of the most charming, appreciative editors I’ve ever been commissioned by.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Finishing novel number five - a work in progress

Jess Barker trudged purposefully up the footpath. It was seven-thirty on a chilly April morning and the new summer term was due to start in less than an hour. But before the frantic onslaught of lessons, meetings and marking, she needed time to think.

At least it was Thursday, so she had 7B, her favourite class, first lesson. Unlike some of the older children, the eleven and twelve year olds she took for English were a pleasure to teach. They still hung on her every word. And handed in their homework on time. In a year or two they’d no doubt be back-chatting, texting under the desk and mumbling “whatever” when she quizzed them about Romeo and Juliet. But right now they were lovely – all bright-eyed and eager to please. As opposed to classes 8D and 9E, who were – and she knew teachers weren’t supposed to say this – a complete and utter pain in the ass.
Jess barely noticed the stunning landscape as she walked. The hike across the fields to majestic Pendle Hill was usually enough to banish all her worries instantly but right now she was too deep in thought to appreciate its beauty.
These are the first three paragraphs of my new novel, which I'm halfway through writing. For the last few years the day job - freelance journalism - has taken precedence, but I'm determined to finish it by the end of the summer.
What really spurred me on was meeting novelist MG Harris - - in Oxford this week. She's the author of The Joshua Files - the hugely successful children's series about a boy searching for a lost Mayan codex. With their tightly-plotted storylines and distinctive covers, MG's books have sold all around the world. The first in the series, Invisible City, was the UK's fastest-selling children's fiction debut for 2008. As we chatted I told MG I'd had four novels published but hadn't finished my fifth. "Why not?" she asked. "You need to get on with it." So that's exactly what I'm doing. And if anyone's got any comments, I'd love to hear. 
PS: The first chapter is set in one of my favourite places in the world - Pendle Hill, in the wilds of Lancashire. It looks gorgeous in summer (see above), but in winter it's windswept and desolate. For three years we lived in a farmhouse on the side of Pendle and were snowed in on a regular basis. There was no central hearing, a temperamental solid fuel stove that went out if we left it for more than a couple of hours and a biting north wind that whistled round the eaves all year round. And yes, I was happy as Larry.
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