Kākāpō – the power of positive

This is one of those good news stories whose simplicity belies the enormous amount of work done by many people over decades. As human beings, we make a mess of our home – but we are also capable of doing great things when we fully accept stewardship of the environment in which we live. I hope that when my children’s children are long gone, the eerie boom of the kākāpō will still echo across the hills of my home.

Ecology Ngātahi

Posted by Jacqueline Beggs@JacquelineBeggs

The distinctive musty odour of kākāpō wafts through the forest as tangata whenua (literally, people of the land) softly chant to welcome back this parrot to Hauturu – Little Barrier Island. The bird tentatively pokes her head out of her travelling cage and then scuttles a short distance into the dense undergrowth, pausing to check her new surroundings. My eyes brim, unexpectedly moved by the connection of this bird to local Māori, and a very special island. It is inspiring to be part of another step forward to securing the future of kākāpō.

Kākāpō are a large, flightless nocturnal parrot, found only in New Zealand.  They have their own facebook page and crowd-funding campaign which contributes to the recovery of this species. Kākāpō are a large, flightless nocturnal parrot, found only in New Zealand. They have their own facebook page and crowd-funding campaign which contributes to the recovery of this species. Photo: Jacqueline Beggs

By 1995, only 51, mostly adult male kākāpō survived. Previous decades had documented a continual decline in numbers, despite…

View original post 354 more words

A Study in Rojo Brillante

A bit of fun from my writing course – an exercise that was never presented to the class, since the video conference link went down. The brief was to imagine ‘what if’ the Spanish Armada had succeeded. What would Britain be like? Fast forward to the beginning of the twentieth century…

A Study in Rojo Brillante

The sturdy figure making its way through the darkened streets turned its collar against the damp cold seeping up from the river. As he turned into Calle Panadero he heard a faint thread of music, perhaps from one of the basement clubs, and smelled the fresh scent of coffee from the tapas bar across the road. The bartender stood outside the club, smoking a foul smelling cheroot whose smoke mingled with the river fog and the spicy aroma of the tapas bar to produce a fug of smog and smell that was the very essence of London.

“Buenas noches, Doctor Juan,” the bartender said, wafting a cloud of smoke across the street. The man crossed the road and peered into the bar. The evening was young, and as yet there were no patrons.

“Buenas noches, Manuel. How’s business?”

The bartender’s lugubrious face fell further. “Terrible,” he said. “Just terrible. This weather is so bad – if it isn’t raining then it’s smoggy, and no-one wants to sit at my nice kerbside tables and eat tapas in the fog.”

A further strain of sound swam into the street, and the man raised his eyes to the upper flat opposite. “And our friend?” he asked. “How has he been?”

“Terrible, also,” Manuel replied morosely. “He has been playing the flamenco again.”
The sound emanating from the house opposite definitely bore some resemblance to flamenco, with its driving rhythm and throbbing strings, but it would have proved difficult to dance to, as its melody swooped and faltered by turns, occasionally dying off altogether when an infelicitous conjunction of chords occurred. The two men standing in the street could clearly hear the wickedest of swear words interspersed with these flurries of sound. The man raised an eyebrow. “I see what you mean,” he said.

The bartender stepped into the bar and returned a moment later with two mugs of thick, black coffee, liberally sweetened in the case of the doctor, and presented them with a slight bow. With the coffees came a bag of fardelejos, small pastries redolent of almonds and lemon oil, still warm from the oven.

“Gracias. He needs all the sweetening he can get.”

“How is the case? Is it not going well?”

“The trouble is that there is no case. If I don’t find him a good mystery soon, I can’t be held responsible for the consequences. All I can say is that they will be much worse than a bad attempt at flamenco. Remember the incident of the matador?”

The bartender winced. He patted the doctor’s arm. “He is lucky to have such a good friend,” he said. “You will find him what he needs.”

“I sincerely hope so.” The doctor crossed the street, pausing halfway as a small two-wheeled carriage rushed past, drawn by a shaggy pony whose mane was the same colour as its driver’s evil looking moustache. The driver leered at the doctor and spat impressively, but missed as his vehicle thundered past. The doctor gained the safety of the opposite pavement and paused to readjust the coffee cups before pressing the latch and entering his house. The door clicked closed behind him, and as the bartender ducked back into his establishment the streetlights came on, illuminating the number plate beside the door latch, which read, in large brass letters, 221B.

Submitting to journals: the Jo Bell method

Really good cogent advice for poets who are thinking about submitting. Really good advice. One of these days I must take it.

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog


I’ve spent some time lately with poetry journal editors – and also with the poor poetic beggars who, like me, send off work to them. It’s struck me anew that many people, especially those at the beginning of their poetry career, don’t have much idea of how submission works and what time span is realistic for an editor to consider a poem. Also, they’re wondering how to keep tabs on the seventeen different poems that they’ve sent out, in order to avoid the no-no of simultaneous submission.

What follows is the Jo Bell Method; the method of an immensely, award-winningly disorganised poet who nonetheless has managed to win awards. My vast and lofty experience teaches me that the key part of winning any prize or getting into a journal is this:


This is the only area of my life where such a streamlined system exists, but…

View original post 1,517 more words

Green Jewels on a Velvet Throw

Here I am on the lovely Jane Bwye’s blog. It’s launch day for The Book of Lismore, so it seemed a good time to talk about Scottish islands.

Jane Bwye

A warm welcome to another talented Crooked Cat author today.  I enjoyed Yvonne Marjot’s first novel, and look forward to another trip to the Hebridean Islands, which make me think of Mendelssohn. Over to you, Yvonne. YM author pic at Calgary

“The Isle of Mull, of isles the fairest”, goes the old song (An t’Eilean Muileach, an t’eilean àghmhor…). It certainly is, and as the setting of The Calgary Chessman it introduced readers to one of the many beautiful islands that stud Hebridean waters like green jewels on a velvet throw.

The islands of the Inner Hebrides each have their own character. There’s Skye, where in 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie fled with Flora MacDonald on her bonnie boat ‘like a bird on the wing’. Skye has mountains fiercer than Mull, the Black Cuillins offering a more challenging climbing experience than the gentle slog up Ben More, Mull’s only Munro.

Islay is justifiably famous…

View original post 715 more words

The seller of dreams

Lovely poem inspired by an equally gorgeous painting.

Jane Dougherty Writes

Poem inspired by twitter friend and muse, Luigi La Ragione.
Painting by Caspar David Friedrich

XKH141318 Drifting Clouds (oil on canvas); by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); 18.3x24.5 cm; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany; German, out of copyright

You sold me dreams of smoke without fire,
The clouds you rode dissolved in rain,
The blue you painted across the sky,
Torn and rent let through the night.
You poured me an ocean of restless waves,
That rolled over shadows of jagged rocks.
The rainbow smiles were for the others,
The promises made were words in the wind.
You wrote your heart in ripples of water,
And walked away in the cold light of the stars.

View original post

Screen Magic if you like your pleasures extra sweet

In the last week I have had the unexpected pleasure of viewing Magic Mike XXL twice. I wasn’t planning to. It just worked out that way. It’s been interesting, since then, to note the pretty mixed reviews the film has got. People seem be split down the middle over whether the film works or not. My take is this: if you loved the rather dour and pessimistic plotline of the original Magic Mike, you’ll hate the new film. If you’re looking for any kind of plausible plot or character development you’ll hate the new film. If you’re looking for a happy ending – well, somebody gets one but it’s certainly not universal.

But if your idea of a good night out is a comfortable (-ish) seat with a bucket of popcorn and Channing Tatum and the Kings of Tampa getting it on right in your face – you’re in for a treat. It’s cheesy, silly, and just a little bit clever, the screen is awash in gym-toned flesh and it made me feel good. No film needs to do more than that. Here’s the review I wrote for the film:

“Pure escapism bathed in Southern sunshine”

Okay, it’s official: this is my feel-good movie of 2015. Nothing’s going to top it. It’s funny, clever, and surprisingly subversive. And as for that boy – you know, the one who can dance – he’s finally got old enough to begin to be interesting. And, dear lord, he can still dance!

Magic Mike XXL is an altogether lighter, frothier confection than its predecessor. There’s not much room here for serious plot structure – it’s pure escapism bathed in Southern sunshine and marinated in a cocktail of pecs, biceps and spray-on tan. All the remaining characters from the original film get a bit more character development, but it’s not overdone; watching this film is far from being an intellectual exercise.

The film is full of parody, and sends itself up as much as the other films it references. Mike’s familiar ineffectual bumbling, here ramped up to an almost irritating degree, masks an incisive mind that is at work manipulating the rest of his crew until at the final moment they are all exactly where he wants them to be. This is where Channing Tatum shines: in a darker character, these machinations would be sinister or chilling, but he only wants what’s best for everybody – and in a film as light and sweet as candy floss everyone can get what they deserve, even if it’s only for five minutes under the spotlights in a rowdy club.

There were a couple of reluctant boyfriends amongst the overwhelmingly female audience at the cinema, and they both belly-laughed within the first few minutes. It’s good. Don’t take my word for it. You deserve to have the same goofy grin on your face – pure pleasure.

Feelgood Women’s Fiction at Crooked Cat Books

Crooked Cats' Cradle

It’s summer; a heatwave is gripping many countries. Trains are cancelled (sorry!). So, what’s better than to relax in your garden with a fabulous, warm stories, all highly recommended by keen readers.

This week on Crooked Cat Books, we feature three wonderful novels from women for women (and for guys who love a warm-hearted read): Chapters of Life by Tina K. Burton, A Summer of Love by Michela O’Brien, and Project Me by Carol Anne Hunter. Discover what the authors reveal about their characters, their writing and read snippets!

Fancy joining a reading group? Then see what happens in Tina K. Burton‘s “engaging” novel, Chapters of Life.

Following a premonition before reading Clare’s tarot cards, Jo takes a risk and decides tochaptersoflife go into business with her. Eventually, they open the doors to Clare’s dream: Merrilies, a bookshop situated in a small English Cotswold town…

View original post 545 more words