Archive for December, 2008

Change of Plans

Ok – made some kind of decision about my next novel, “Hangingstone Hill.”

I had originally planned it to be set in Dartmoor but I’ve changed my mind. This, for a start, will make the name redundant as that’s a place name of a tor in the Dartmoor area.

It seems silly to me to live in one of the most unusual places in the UK and then set a Big Gothic Novel hundreds of miles away which makes it harder to research. So it’s going to be set in the Norfolk Broads, instead – which will be perfect for isolation, as no-one will be able to leave the house without a boat. Granted I’ll need to do a lot of research on the Broads, but that will be easier to do here. Local libraries are stuffed with books on the Broads, whereas they might not have the depth of knowledge of Dartmoor.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to the research, I always enjoy researching about people more than I like researching the history of a place, but I usually like it better when I’m doing it, finding out loads of things I didn’t know before.

First step – getting maps of the area. At least that won’t be difficult!  Then persuading Dad to come out on a Day Boat with me to research a good area to set my manor house. The more remote the better.trinity-broads

What about you? Have you set a story a stupidly long way away? Or have you used a local locale?


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‘Twas the night before Yesterday, when all through the house

We heard Christmas music, playing ever so loud;

We thought it was coming from the neighbours so near,

That they must have it blaring, dear, oh dear.

It got louder and louder, and made such a clatter

We jumped to our feet to see what was the matter.

Away to the door, we both rushed outside…

And saw Santa drive by…In his Sleigh, no lie!


(Actually, it was the local scouts but quite spectacular in its way.)

Sharon Maria Bidwell
aonia – where the muses live

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ITIN–How NOT to do it


For the correct and painless way of obtaining your Individual Tax Identification Number – please see THIS POST by Alex Beecroft.  To see exactly the way NOT to do it, read on.

March 2008.  Your publisher supplies the W7 to fill in. The form looks relatively straightforward but has about 12 pages of “goobledegook” attached to it explaining how to fill it in.

April 2008. Ignore the gobbledegook entirely. We are English! We didn’t rule an Empire reading gobbledegook!  These Colonials will realise this! Fill in the form, blithely, missing out anything you don’t understand. Go to a notary, allow yourself to be bullied–get a certified copy of your passport costing £20. Stuff in envelope and send it off to Texas.

May 2008. Frown when you get a letter from Texas telling you you’ve failed miserably and if you need any help with the form you should contact the American Embassy.

May 2008. Send off an email to the American Embassy.

May 2008. Receive extremely helpful email from chap at Embassy. Seems he’s happy to help! Good times!

June-October. Despite this – do nothing.

October 2008. Finally get arse off chair, and work out what an “Apostille” is. Ignore fact entirely that Nice Chap from Embassy has suggested you post passport directly to him and it will cost you nothing other than postage. Instead – go to Notary, get Apostille and get charged over £100.

October 2008. Receive authorised apostille back, send form off to Embassy.

October 2008. Recieve form back rejected.  You didn’t fill it out properly again and you didn’t send a copy of your contract and a letter from the publisher. Something that refers to royalites. Fussy Americans!

November 2008. Spend money on photocopying copying your entire contract and letters from publisher. Send off to Embassy with form filled in as Nice Chap has shown you how by now.

November 2008. Receive email from Nice Chap saying that he doens’t know if the letter you’ve provided will be sufficient as it doesn’t refer to royalties. Reply saying that the contract does. Nice Chap says he “hopes that will do.”  Hope this too.

June-December. Suffer inordinate amount of stress and cause same as your publisher bombards you with emails as to whether you’ve recevied the number yet.

December. Start to panic.

December 10th. Receive ITIN.

The moral of this tale?  Do I need to spell it out?

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My love affair with pantomime goes back to seeing Jimmy Tarbuck (father of Lisa) playing Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk with Arthur Askey as Dame Trott. Forty odd years on and I can still see it so clearly in my mind’s eye. Like your first kiss, you never forget your first pantomime.


It’s a theatrical experience which defies description. There’s usually a bloke dressed as a woman and sometimes a girl dressed as a boy. There’s music, dancing and comedy. The cast talk to the audience, encourage them to respond, tell them off if they don’t make enough noise. It’s entertaining and anarchic. It’s unique.

Pantomime in England goes back best part of three hundred years to the days of Harlequinades. Over the years the customs developed as did the canon of stories – fairy tales and legends – on which the productions are based. When I was younger I can remember people saying that panto was dead, that it had become little more than a vehicle for pop stars to plug their singles, but it’s returned to its roots, been espoused by serious/popular actors and is thriving once more.
So who are the leading players? There’s the Dame of course; whether she’s Dame Trott or an Ugly Sister, she’s feisty, man mad and arrayed in a serious of ridiculous costumes. There have been some notable dames over the years, including Douglas Byng who rather specialised in it.


I have a soft spot for John Inman, who was a wonderful Nurse – and Ian McKellen added a degree of respectability to the genre when he played Widow Twanky. 


I’ve come across the theory that this tradition dates back to the times when monks put on dramas based on bible stories. Mrs Noah was a harridan, played by a monk in drag, and so the pantomime dame was born. Such a nice idea, I hope it’s true.

Then there’s the principal boy, perhaps Dick Whittington or Prince Charming, played by a handsome woman with legs up to her armpits and costumes which even Liberace would find effeminate.


Ann Sidney made a particularly dashing Prince, Su Pollard was a suitably saucy Jack. Peter Pan was always traditionally played by a woman, the first being Nina Bouccicault – Maude Adams also made a dashing ‘hero’ in the role.


Mind you, I’d agree with the impresario who insisted that his productions always had a handsome man in these sorts of roles ‘for the little girls to fall in love with’. As someone who’s had John Barrowman as Aladdin address her from the stage, I can concur with the sentiment.

There has to be a villain, one you can boo and hiss and generally abuse.


John Nettles (dear old Inspector Barnaby) makes a marvellous King Rat, one who plays the role absolutely seriously, as is correct. The villain has to be convincingly scary. His nemesis is usually a fairy of some description who works hard to make all things right by the time the curtain falls. There may be a pantomime cow or horse (two blokes dressed up in a costume)


some semi-spectacular special effects, lots of bad jokes, children in the cast to sing and dance, those in the audience to be dragged up on stage and made to take part.

I love theatre, I adored the recent Hamlet at the RSC, but I’m equally excited about going up to Birmingham to see Barrowman play Robin Hood. Try it yourselves; leave your theatre-snobbery and inhibitions at the door, get ready to hiss, cheer and shout ‘Behind you’ when instructed. Get thee to a panto this winter or else I’ll send King Rat around to duff you up with his fearless gang of men in grey tights.


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