I love you too [template]

I’ve often discussed with students what the worst thing ever is. Not as in actually the worst things ever, like disease and death and man’s inhumanity to man; they don’t count. The worst thing ever as in eating a biscuit slowly, bit by bit, and really looking forward to the last mouthful, and looking for it initially with delighted anticipation and then baffled frustration and finally the beginnings of the crushing realisation that you’ve eaten it already and forgotten. Which is certainly one of the worst things ever.

The executive breakfast lounge

Image: the executive breakfast lounge (for reasons that will become clear)

It is not, however, the worst thing ever. Not any more. Because I have found out what the worst thing ever actually is – and who is responsible for this horror. It turns out that the perpetrator has been with me for months; has been a reliable (mostly) and certainly useful… Continue reading

Are you looking at me part III

I want you to imagine that I am staring you straight in the eye. It is a weird request, I know, but go with it. Visualise the stare. To provide inspiration, I typed ‘stare’ into flickr and this is what it gave me:


Image: flickr.com/Sarah G…

So, if you have the image, my question is this: how am I staring? Can you qualify the verb ‘staring’ with a juicy adverb – and here is the challenge – can you do so while avoiding cliché?

See, my contention is that there is no way to describe the act of staring that achieves this feat. All the adverbs that go with the verb ‘stare’ feel tired to me. When I think of staring, I think of staring ‘fixedly’. Or ‘unblinkingly’. Or ‘intently’, ‘steadily’, ‘blankly’. And every one of these feels like a cliché.

This is a matter close to my heart, since… Continue reading

Are you looking at me part II

Here’s a contention: some facial expressions do not exist. These are facial expressions we all know. We read them described in books. Occasionally we see actors on TV using them. If we were asked, we would know exactly what the facial expression was supposed to signify. In fact, these expressions are perfect in every way except one: no-one in real life has ever used them.

image: flickr.com/stevendepolo

Image: flickr.com/stevendepolo

So, at this point you are probably feeling sceptical about my claim. I know how that looks. You have one eyebrow arched and your lips are pursed, right? Except, of course, you don’t and they aren’t. Were I trying (lazily) to indicate in a book that a character was feeling as sceptical as you are right now, that is how I would describe it, but it wouldn’t be true. At best I would guess that you have a slight tensing of the face… Continue reading

Are you looking at me?

Two women go into a bar. They buy a drink, then sit talking to each other. [Spoiler: this isn’t going to be a joke. Please don’t expect an off-colour punchline: disappointment will be inevitable. This is in fact the first post in a series of three designed to investigate the terrible lies we tell, to ourselves and others, whenever we talk to or look at another human being. Anyway. Enough of this aside. As you were.]

photo: flick/stijlfoto

As they talk, they do other things too. People do, while they talk, right? In fact sometimes when I am talking to someone I consciously remember that while talking we also do other things, and become self-conscious about what it is that I and other people do. I end up staring at them too long in the eye, until we are both uncomfortable. Then I flick my eyes to the corner of the room,… Continue reading

10 ways to recognise you have been writing a long time

Today, not at all linked to the fact that I am in Cornwall and the allure of cliffs and beaches outweighs that of screens and keyboards, brevity is the order of the day. In a moment some news, but first, a list. Here are the Ten Things that made me realise I have been doing exactly what I am doing now (ie sitting down and hitting keys aggressively to make them, poor subjugated serfs, churn out words) for a long, long while…

top ten

  1. Your friends stop asking when the book is coming out.

  3. You sometimes mistake characters in books you’ve written for real people (honestly. ‘Someone I knew once… oh. Hang on. It was someone… um… in a book’. Embarrassing enough even without revealing that you wrote the book).

  5. On the back of the scrap paper you use for shopping lists are early drafts of novels you can’t… Continue reading

The youth of today

Gangs of youths maraud the streets, looting as it takes their fancy. People demand explanations. Luckily the Home Office has commissioned a report into the origins of such behaviour, and it has reached some sober and judicious conclusions.

london riots

First and foremost we have the break-up of the family unit. ‘The absence of… fathers’ removes one source of discipline for young people. And the ‘increased employment’ of mothers doesn’t help. Economic and other circumstances are hard, and this has led to a shortage both of police response, in immediate terms, and more widely of support workers for young people. The report notes the ‘absence of social workers from boys’ clubs’ and other community organisations.

Another cause, the report notes, is a spirit of ‘lawless adventure’ among young people. Tendencies that would once have been thought ‘reprehensible’ are now widespread. Young people seem to feel a ‘legitimate excuse’ to carry on in… Continue reading

Predicting the future

This is a sensation, I think, that we all know. We are texting a friend. We wish to take advantage of the full richness and range of the English language and tell them to bugger off. Just for an example. We type ‘bugge’, and the phone obeys, docile and uncomplaining beneath the agitation of thumbs. Then we add the final ‘r’, and suddenly, from nowhere, the ghost of Mary Whitehouse rises in the machine. Rebellion! Prudery! And ‘bugges’! Predictive text cannot countenance and will not allow the existence of bugger, even though, unlike ‘bugges’, it is actually a word.

prudish mobile phone

It doesn’t stop there. I rarely wish to type ‘shiv’, and infrequently ‘dual’. ‘Yank’ is not a term I use often, either. And were I inclined to type something else, then to see ‘aunt’ come up is incongruous to say the least.

This odd primness on the part of mobile phone… Continue reading

Sentence the first

What is the first sentence of your favourite book? Don’t look it up, obviously. And you aren’t allowed to pretend that Pride and Prejudice is your favourite book if it isn’t, because lots of people know that one. Or A Tale of Two Cities. Think of your real favourite book. How did that lovely thing, that star of your memory, that lifelong friend, first introduce itself to you?


This question on my part precedes a confession: I hate writing first sentences. In my writing career so far I have never written a first sentence first. I’ve always started somewhere else, in fact usually at the opposite end (of which more another time). And then I have eventually come to the first page, the first sentence, the very first word, and been gripped by a kind of super-anxiety. As if I was about to walk into a room full of… Continue reading

Life, in miniature

I sat, the other day, in front of a box of video cassettes. We’ve just moved house – a thrill, as commonly acknowledged; and one of the items that moved with us was this box. I opened it, the cardboard rasping angrily, and caught my first glimpse of the giant black plastic briquettes lurking inside: unwatched for years. Indeed now unwatchable, as we have no video player.

video cassette

Taking one out, the first thing that hit me was the sheer enormity of the thing. In this age of DVDs and USB sticks and hard drives we’ve got used to technology being slim, finger-sized, dainty. There’s nothing dainty about a video tape. Holding it my mind reeled, scale slipped. I momentarily imagined that I had shrunk to the size of an infant. Nothing else could explain the thickness of this piece of would-be techno wizardry, the way it stuck out comically on… Continue reading

Page one

Welcome to this site, and more specifically, to this blog. It’s by a writer, it’s about reading and writing, and it’s for anyone who takes pleasure in either activity.

Since this is brand new, and since I retain a childish delight in pictures of sunrises and sunsets (we are talking entire albums, as a child, filled with indistinguishable photos of roseate skies), here is dawn in Cornwall to get us started:

dawn in cornwall


Now: when I bid you that welcome above, I did so with a touch of wariness alongside the most sincere sense of hospitality. Here’s why. A writer – it has often been observed – has two mortal enemies. One, the blank sheet of paper. Two, the necessity of accepting that a piece of work is ever finished. I read of one nameless author who agonised over his son’s off-games note. How to begin? How in the world… Continue reading

Will le Fleming is a novelist. His debut, Central Reservation, is published by Xelsion and available now. Read more...

On a grey Thursday morning Holly lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wished her sister would die. Five hours later her wish came true. Read more...

About this blog
The first post explains all - find it here.