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A Bit of a Trollope

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Today, I’m talking about one of my very favourite novelists and people, Anthony Trollope. Trollope’s back story is fascinating. His father was a solicitor, a man who was probably addicted to opium, via the huge doses of calomel so beloved by Victorian physicians and who had absolutely no business sense. Due to a run of catastrophic decisions and ill-fortune, the family found itself very short of cash and with a bleak future staring them in the face. His mother, Fanny, took up her pen to support her large family while dealing with the death of several of her children. Before the causes of tuberculosis were known, families would have to stand by, helpless, and watch the disease snatch away many of their family. This is what happened to the Trollopes. Of the seven children, five died young.
Trollope was educated at Harrow, pitied and despised by his school mates and masters as he was not paying any fees. He was wretchedly unhappy, but did his best and on leaving school, secured a position …

Trust and obey… by Claire Musters

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‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.’Our previous pastor used to say these lines from the old hymn time and time again – it became a bit of a running joke when we heard ‘Trust and obey’ in his sermons. And yet I’ve been reminded of the importance of trust and obedience again since our kids have gone back to school (one starting secondary school for the first time).I think, like many working parents, I had probably pinned far too many expectations onto the moment the door shut and I was left in peace to write for the first time. I had been swinging like a giant pendulum between longing for that time (then feeling guilty about that longing) and not wanting to let them go back out into the big wide world where Covid is still at large.Things haven’t quite worked out like I imagined…which is pretty much a summary of the whole year isn’t it?!Firstly, I had forgotten quite how much effort it takes for the whole household to settle a child in…

A Reflection on Time - by Liz Carter

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I’ve been reflecting on the nature of time this week. Not out of any great philosophical revelation, but simply due to the fact that my daughter turns twenty years old today, and that feels like a big thing, like something to sit with a while. I know twenty-one is the big one, but twenty feels new and different and scary. Twenty ages me so much more than nineteen, and throws me into a whirl of memories and well-worn cliches about where-on-earth-did-those-years-go. It was yesterday, surely, that she was a tiny newborn, snuffling in my arms. Time is wrong, isn’t it? It has to be.As writers, and as creatives in general, we have a unique privilege when it comes to matters of time: we can manipulate it. We can bend it and travel through it, we can look back over it and forward to years we will never see. We can even break it, sometimes. Some of the most fascinating books play with time – think of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, or The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, or The C…

Separation Anxiety and Success

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I used to dread Sunday mornings. Not the whole going-to-church thing, obviously (for those of you who were about to pelt me with remaindered books for heresy). It's more that when my children were toddlers, I could guarantee they would throw five-star screaming fits whenever I tried to leave them in Sunday School. 
One of them had a particular penchant for screeching at full volume as I walked out of the door…and yet, as I loitered outside said door in a state of mother-guilt indecision, I could hear the wailing decrescendo at a rapid rate until they were indistinguishable from all the other boisterous two-year-olds. Forty-five minutes later, they’d barely glance up at me as I went to retrieve them.Separation anxiety is seen as a normal part of child development, and it’s a stage that most children grow out of quite quickly. It seems like one minute they’re clinging to your leg like an over-zealous Rottweiler, and the next they’re rolling their eyes with embarrassment whenever you …

ME TOO! by Liz Manning

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My lovely mother in law died recently. In response to that, and short of the usual family coming together in the current circumstances, I wrote a poem called Lockdown Funeral Blues.In times of acute pain, writing poetry becomes my ‘go to’. A month after my mum died, I wrote this:THE DAY BEFORE MOTHERS’ DAYToday was hard.Eyes assaulted by bouquet displays,Banner announcements, chocolates, cakes, And menu ideas.Who knew Walking into a supermarketWould be likeWalking into an ambushOf everyone else’s impending celebration?Momentarily I clutched the wall,As if punched in the sternum,Chest tight, fighting for breath,The claustrophobic cacophony Obliterating my abilityTo choose a curry for tonight’s dinner.I turned and forced myselfTo concentrate on an Easter display insteadBut the unsaid noise was deafening.I had to escapeFrom all this anticipation and appreciation,My own love overspillingWith no one to receive it,Directionless, Wasted.
When we made the dreaded decision to move my dad into …

Pity Our Friends, the Musicians by Rosemary Johnson

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Many years ago, my daughter, having heard her friends boasting about going sailing, swimming and horse-riding, bewailed to me that all she got to do in the long school summer holiday was piano practice. This wasn’t quite true because I made her do clarinet practice too.
Our poor fellow creative friends, the musicians, have been placed in enforced practice mode since the beginning of lockdown.  Practice is playing your instrument (or singing) in a room by yourself and it’s boring.  We writers might relish being put in solitary for twenty minutes per day but for musicians performing is the point, the whole point, whether in a posh frock in the Albert Hall or on a battered descant recorder in a school assembly.  Concert halls have been closed and remain so.  Music is not being made in schools.  For a long time our churches were closed altogether, so no live music there, and, since we have been allowed back, under very restricted conditions, music has been frowned upon.  In our church, my …