Letters of Ted Hughes selected and edited by Christopher Reid (thoughts while reading)

I have a cold. Poor me. It is just a cold so I am able to struggle on. It’s been a busy week, uncommonly sociable actually, which has made me realise how unsociable I usually am. I’ve been in to Brighton and up to London and have sat on trains for quite a few hours so I had extra time to read “Letters of Ted Hughes”, and wow, I am enjoying it so very much, it’s a delicious treat.
So much of what he writes in letters to Plath and other writers is incredibly relevant and familiar. He writes about things that affect me, and consequently fills me with a strange confidence. Ah, I can think to myself, it was the same even for Ted. (Yeah, we’re *that* familiar I can call him Ted.)
On not being able to write: “At present I am doing nothing – I sit for hours like a statue of a man writing, no different, except during the 3rd or 4th hour a bead of sweat moves on my temple. I have never known it so hard to write.”
On discovering he had won a prize to have his first book of poetry published: “My first reaction was a horrible feeling of guilt at what I had committed, and I went to read the poems over to see if they were really as dull as I dreded (sic) they were. I immediately saw fifty things I wanted to change and I’m appalled that I let most of the poems out in such an unfinished state.”
On rejections: “Don’t be taken back by those rejections, but don’t send them straight out…If you can keep up your writing you will see, after a few weeks, where you can improve the rejected ones, or whether they are better let lie.”
I am finding it liberating and inspirational and it seems to be feeding me creatively, to the point where I have just finished writing the first draft of one new story, am editing two other stories, and had a great idea of what to do with an old story that I like but which doesn’t quite work as is. I’m not sure what the magic of it is, but hey, it’s good!
One other thing: I always said that Matt wrote the best emails and letters ever. His were funny, clever, sarcastic, witty, intelligent and thoughtful. He had an authoritative voice which made statements; sometimes hilariously, wicked statements. Ted Hughes writes in the same way, it’s really uncanny. It’s not Matt’s voice, but they definitely shared a similar style. Matt really disliked Hughes, he was a Plath fan who blamed Hughes for her suicide. I am amused to note just how similar TH and MK seem, and would love to be able to tease Matt about it.
Anyway, available at Waterstone’s bookshops or online at Waterstone.com at the bargain price of £7.49

Matt Kinnison and the perfect coffee

Today is the first anniversary of Matt’s death. I was reading through our live journal looking for something and noticed that all of Matt’s cartoons have been removed. I suppose his photobucket account was wiped or something. It sucks to have lost them all. Anyway, I miss him like crazy, it hurts not having him in my life, and I send love out into the world to all his friends and family.

Thought it would be cool to share Matt’s perfect coffee (written in his own inimitable style) with you.

Here is a recipe for a most delicious Turkish Coffee:
Take four heaped table spoons of very finely ground coffee….whichever one you like best..it can be any type at all, with the possible exception of Kenyan, which may become overly acidic made in this way. A fuller bodied coffee, such as Mysore, Brazilian or Guatemalan works very well.
Add these to a small milk pan of cold water, so that there is slighty over three times as much water as there is coffee. Open three cardamum pods, checking that the seeds inside are black and podgy….the lighter, thinner ones are a bit like mouthwash and will spoil the taste. Add these and if you like sugar, add some now.
Bring this mixture to the boil VERY SLOWLY…just simmer really….bring to the boil three times, letting the mixture relax and simmer again between boilings. It should be on the heat for about ten minutes in total. A soft foam will have developed, and you should skim a bit off and put it in a pre warmed cup. After the third boil, pour the mixture in to the cup and leave to stand….there is an ungodly sludge that will need to settle, and you should remember not to drain your cup completely when you drink or you’ll get a faceful. This sludge, i am informed, can be used to tell the future, but i’m afraid i don’t know how.
This coffee is best served with something uncommonly sweet, such as Turkish Delight, A Danish Pastry or those Indian sweets that look like radioactive worms.

Technological gubbins

Thanks so much to Matt Bell for helping me open the .DBX files. As I’d hoped, there were over a 100 emails from Matt. I have been rereading them, laughing and crying, and just so glad that I weirdly backed them up.

To avoid any such future calamity, on Friday I bought a My Book external hard drive, and today I have been backing up my beloved Mac. The hard drive came without an instruction booklet (it says there’s one, there is not.) So, I have plugged and clicked and hoped. It seems to be doing things, tho’ as soon as it turned on Time Machine asked me if I wanted to back up, so I said yeah, imagining the 2 things were happening in tandem. Apparently not. Time machine has finished and My Book has only just begun.

I also bought a cooling tray for the mac, in the hope that if I treat it well and keep it cool it will reward me.

Yesterday was spent trying to get my mother’s Sony reader operational, and download a book for her birthday. That was in-between the trying to open the .DBX files and googling hopefully. The reader should have been easy, but unfortunately wasn’t, as the Digital Editions I had installed didn’t work, and I had to re-install.

My printer has gone wrong and sends me on a cycle of “Check the ink” “Check the paper” – they are both fine, but it still won’t work.

My paper shredder has ceased functioning properly. It will only shred paper if I reverse first, and then quickly wedge the paper in. It’ll only do that once, then I have to reveres again. I have spent ages poking at it, unclogging it, revving it. Bah!

Anyway, this is all by way of saying aaaaargggghhhh, I love my shiny techy things, but I do not have the noggin to understand them. They have been taking up too much time, but hopefully it’ll all be done by tomorrow, and I can get back to some focussed writing.


Anyone know how to open a .DBX file? (A thrilling title huh?)

I have a techy problem, and being super non-techy I have no clue how to solve it.
Back in 2006 I used a pc, and one day a guy online (who I am no longer in touch with) advised me to back up my mail for some reason, (can’t recall why), and talked me thru how. So I did, and created a mail backup cd. Forgot all about it. Moved from London to Sussex, PC kaputt, didn’t care, bought a MacBook.

(I heart my MacBook.)
Bought my twins a PC so they can use the same system at home as they do at school. PC uses windows xp. Outlook Express has been replaced by Windows Live apparently.
Who cares? Well…I didn’t until yesterday when I had a day off work and the sun was shining, a cool breeze was wafting thru the open window, and I felt a spring clean was in order.

Matt and I had a long history of emailing back and forth, and when he died I kept thinking how sad it was that I had lost so many of his emails. He was the best letter writer/correspondent/emailer ever. He wrote lengthy, hilarious diatribes, rants, and thoughts. He offered support and advice, punned admirably, and rocked y’know. So when I found this cd from 2006 my heart swelled, and I felt excited, upset, scared, anxious all at the same time. I put it in the PC but the fucking thing won’t open. I can’t get it open. I don’t understand.

Apparently .DBX files need opening with something, but what? The link that it takes me to makes zero sense to me. I am googling and I can’t tell the difference between a rip off, a virus, and a legitimate device. Nothing is clear to me. Does anyone have any idea what I should do please?

To clarify, I have a CD that contains .DBX files, it shows up when I put it in but the files can’t be read. I no longer have outlook express as the PC operates Windows XP, so the mail programme is windows live mail.

Bit o’ nothing really

I haven’t updated here recently. I think I am in a bit of a funk. I only just thought of that word “funk” but it seems to fit perfectly with my mood.

Random then:

I miss Matt, and I try not to notice just how much because it rips me to pieces. So I think a Matt thought, and I try to move away from it quickly.

I wrote a flash for a weekly thingy at the Fiction Workhouse. I am quite keen on it, but nobody else is.

I have had a sort of viral something since Christmas. It doesn’t ever quite evolve, but I am constantly tired, and ears pop in and out with swallowing. I have no energy.

I am re-reading Kate Pullinger’s guide on how to write fiction (given away with the Guardian last year) and it is so superb. I feel as if I have turned the key in my car, and I am gently revving the engine. I am going to finish the novel this year.

I just read Kate Atkinson’s “When will there be good news?” and enjoyed it. I was disappointed with her last novel, but this was a page turner that I loved reading. The character’s of Reggie and Dr Hunter are lovely, and I was rooting for them all the way. Occasionally I was surprised by how clunky a sentence was, but mainly I was in that gorgeous fictive dream. She makes it seem easy to plot juggle and switch perspective. I know it is not.

I wish I was full of energy. I have a permanent health problem anyway, so always operate from a below average start point, when a virus comes along it really does for me. I hope to be back at it soon.

This is not a best of the year with salt

I usually like to post an end of year round up, I usually enjoy pondering on what were my years highlights, it’s a fun thing to do. This year I couldn’t think of any “best” at all. Matt’s death has cast a shadow over everything. In a what the fuck truth telling mood I don’t mind sharing the fact that just beneath my surface, for the last year, there have been tears and loss and sadness. There has been Matt; his illness, his death.

Matt and I were friends for over twenty years. He wasn’t perfect, neither am I. In fact I believe neither of us would want me to be overly sentimental just because he is dead. He drove me nuts at times, and in the 20 plus years we shared, we rowed, and bitched, and pissed each other off loads of times. We also created a shared history, layers between us, short hand. We watched each other grow, learn, evolve from kids to adults, and in the last years of his life (and if only I had known, god, how much more of an effort would I have made) he became my best male friend. It takes years to build the friendship we had. It was rare, unique, unlikely, wonderful. He was different from anyone else I have ever met. He was a stubborn genius, a musical giant, and an amazing, non-judgmental, supportive chum.

So, I was thinking about all of that, whilst I sat in a big bubbly bath, sipping champagne that my husband poured for me. Then I came and checked my emails. My twins had been on the pc, and their msn pages were still open. They are 10 years old and their pals have status’s that read like “Chelsea till I die” “Zac Efron is well fit” “2 weeks till diznee land”. Ted’s update reads “Love u mum, ur the best” and Dylan’s reads “I love my mum 2000000000 times to the moon and back.” Gulp.

Downstairs Simon is preparing New Years Eve dinner for us. He bought all my favourite things to eat, plus delicious champagne. Matt once said that he thought Si loved me so much he’d move planets to please me. If I sound like I’m showing off, well I am. It’s important that this year isn’t just about loss. It’s also about how my beautiful boys (Hubby and sons) have supported me and surrounded me with love. It’s about the friendship I had with Matt, the memories that I can dip into, and cherish. It’s about the friends I am blessed with, and the new friends I made this year too.

Thanks to the writers at the Fiction Workhouse and Zoetrope for sharing and caring. Thanks to my facebook pals (to all who slag off facebook, I am delighted that it enables me to chat with writing pals in India, America, France, U.S, and even Brighton!) Thanks to all who read this blog and comment and stop me feeling alone. Thanks to Tania for being lovely. Thanks to Jo for getting me up on a stage this year! Thanks to Lane for LitCamp and encouragement. Thanks to Rachel for Cella’s. Thanks to Sean for being my coolest commenter! Thanks to Kellie for being ace. Thanks to Lisa for everything always. Thanks to Mima for all the listening. Thanks to Si for my whole life. Thanks to you all for reading. I’m allowed to be soppy, it’s New Years Eve!

Happy 2009 to all.



When I was fifteen/sixteen I met Pete. He was a year older than me, and went to a different school. He had blonde hair, green eyes, lots of earrings, and was very cute. He was funny too, made me laugh a lot. He was kind, temperamental, gorgeous, flirty and smart. We dated for a while, then split up, got back together, argued, split. This went on for a couple of years. It was all very teen romance, full of tiny dramas and huffs. We stayed friends when we weren’t dating, still went round to each others houses, chatted on the phone, got drunk together, and occasionally kissed. He was my dependable guy, I accused him of being Mr Average, Mr 2.4 kids, a fortnight in Spain each year, that being enough. I thought I could see the shape of his life, so predictable. He died when he was 22 of meningitis.

His death changed me, stayed with me, shaped me. It’s the thing that I carry with me always. The knowledge that one can be perfectly fit, young, healthy, and still die with no warning.

When Matt was dying I kept thinking about Pete. Matt lived twenty years longer than Pete. His death was not a sudden loss, I had time to try to adjust to losing him. It didn’t help.

One rainy night I was on the train, coming home from work, and I looked out of the window at a girl on a platform. She had something, an essence of youth, an expression on her face, that reminded me of Pete. And I started to think about him, and Matt, and I wondered if I believed in an afterlife, and if so, would Pete be there and meet Matt, even though they didn’t know each other. Sunshine filtered through the rain, and in the few seconds the train stayed at the station, a rainbow appeared. And it seemed like an answer.

I have a short piece published in the latest edition of The Ranfurly Review called Way Down Like a Tidal Wave.
Page 59

blah to the max

I feel blah.

I feel a little as if I want to hibernate and not mix with people, and not sub work, and not talk much, and not put myself “out there” for a while. I think it would be good to settle on the sofa and read some absorbing books. I would like to not worry about deadlines and writing the novel. I bought wii fit on Friday, i’d like to read, and write for pleasure (not to deadlines or for subbing,) and go on the wii fit, and talk to my lovely boys.

I’m on the Waterstone’s New Voices committee or whatever they call it, and I got sent a bunch of books today. I looked them over and it seems I got a couple of cool ones. Last year I think I must have got the dregs because there was nothing I liked at all.

I miss Matt.
So much.

If you go on wikipedia there’s a section of “recent deaths”. I started scouring the ages of people who died this month, looking at their ages, hoping everyone was way older than me.

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