Claire King

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Archive for the ‘Asides’ Category

An Early Present

Posted on: October 9th, 2018 by Claire - No Comments

It’s about the time of year people start worrying about Christmas.

I know! I know it’s too early to talk about Christmas but it’s not too early to *think* about Christmas, apparently. And start worrying. And panic buying sprouts. And ham.

Some people love Christmas and approach it with an enviable joy. I’m less enthusiastic, usually because I feel the weight of other people’s expectations and approach it with a mounting sense of overwhelm. When you barely have enough hours in the day as it is, and work hard to balance the family finances year round, it can be hard to embrace the requirement to lay on 18 hours of pure unadulterated joy and excitement for those you love most, including a meal that can take hours for (someone) to cook and buying and wrapping gifts on behalf of other people because they don’t know what to get for (your spouse/your kids/their mum etc).

I’m honestly not grinchy, it’s just that personally, my favourite winter celebration is the solstice. I love a decorated tree, a boozy home made cake, a festive walk in the woods, a Boxing Day spent entirely in pyjamas. Boxing day is traditionally my favourite day of all…but I recently realised that was because it’s the day that the pressure to deliver is finally off.

Brussels Sprouts

Last year, on Boxing Day, from the sofa in my pyjamas, I posted this tweet. I wanted to run a quick Christmas debrief and get hot takes that would be good to look back on as we start getting wound up again in 2018. To save you going through the thread, I have summarised the replies below. It’s like an early present from me to you, to remind us all that the most important things don’t involve much hassle at all.

1) What was the thing you worried about running up to Christmas that wasn’t worth the worry?

  • How the kids would react to a very frugal Christmas in comparison to Christmas’ past (Actually more enjoyable & heartwarming: my 16yo declared his best ever).
  • That I would feel sad on my own (I didn’t at all, it was great).
  • Family phoning me on Christmas Day. Yep, I realise that sounds strange. (Yep. Hurrah for WhatsApp cos they all messaged rather than phoning. They didn’t really understand why I wanted to be on my own.)
  • The journey to and from my parents’ house. (Drive/ferry/drive.) The journey to wasn’t worth worrying about – journey back won’t be either, and yet I am worrying.
  • Older son not being with us on Christmas Day. In the end, younger son made it such a brilliant day and older son phoned twice 🙂
  • Buying for my mother.
  • Seating everyone around a table (solved by buying some Ikea Frosta stools at £9 each)
  • Which invite to accept.
  • That the sitting room/ dining room would be too small for 10 – it flexed beautifully.
  • Getting work finished. I didn’t. Everyone went on holiday anyway.

2) What was the food you bought too much of?

  • Ham. I under-hammed last year and kept panic buying hams this year. Total: 8kg of ham for six people.
  • Stollen. But I managed to eat it all (by myself).
  • Bread. We don’t eat bread at Christmas.
  • Amaretti biscuits (for a dessert I didn’t have time to make)
  • Parsnips!
  • Sprouts. I love em, everyone else hates em.
  • Another vote for Sprouts
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Sprouts!
  • Cheese. But I’ll happily eat it for days.
  • Whiskey.
  • Pigs in blankets. Turns out no one but me likes them.
  • Oh god. Salami and chorizo, but only because my family don’t hold truck.

3) What was the best gift you gave or received?

  • Gave: an emergency camping bag for getting stuck unexpectedly overnight. Received: Boston College tracksuit pants (though really a delayed bday gift).
  • Honestly, and cornily, it’s been the being here and being able to deal with chores for my parents that have needed doing. It’s made more of a difference for all of us than the nice wrapped things. Also a fitbit.
  • The promise of action, doing something rather than gifting items… best response that I’ve popped OH on Allotment waiting list
  • Everything I had was wonderful – unexpected, useful/fun or both. best thing I gave – a voucher for a wedding waistcoat 🙂
  • School bell to my daughter to call the next generation to meals! Received an internal handbag organiser – we shall see how that goes!!!
  • Books! And book tokens!
  • Stereo/headphones for No.1 child. Loves music.
  • Daughter 3 bought me 3 drawings lessons, to take whenever I want.
  • Surprised my husband with the wireless headphones he’s wanted for ages. Normally he doesn’t get anything exciting, & he was so chuffed. Pure deserved for his constant support.
  • Hamilton CD to my OS. He’s over the moon and has been educating me all about it.
  • V loves her camera.
  • Board games
4) What will you do differently for Xmas 2018 (if you remember)?
  • Try not to be sick for a fortnight!
  • Buy less ham.
  • Focus more on helping others. I did a bit this year but barely scratched the surface.
  • Press my mother in law to plan much earlier. Her indecision was very stressful for me.
  • Not come home. Woohoo!
  • Go for a walk on the beach, whatever the weather.
  • Bring more hair bobbles.
  • Send less cards.
  • Nothing, had a great day
  • Nurture the giving time /effort ethos… where possible handmake more presents
  • Nothing! There’s always something, and it doesn’t matter anyway! So long as family are around thats all that matters.
  • Buy the presents for children in November – otherwise all good!
  • Stop stressing about it!
5) What did you do this year that made Xmas/the holidays a good experience?
  • No turkey roast – we did a ‘Spanish’ Christmas: OH cooked a paella for 16 in a huge paella pan we bought years ago in Spain, & I cooked Nigella’s moist lemon & almond cake & flan de casa. Much less washing up.
  • Trimmed down the dinner – it’s only a roast innit? 3 veg, 2 were roasted. Bought frozen Yorkshire puddings too, & concentrated on making the most excellent gravy. Had much more time with my family & less with the kitchen.
  • Me and worked like a machine to manage 4yo excitement and expectations.
  • Brought my partner along for the week – he’s been a star.
  • Chilled out and didn’t over do it!
  • Relaxed with those I love.
  • Helped out at a homeless charity locally. Next year I will take my sons to help too.
  • Less is more… reduce expectations & itinerary, relax & just go with the flow
  • Family coming together – extending table to a near neighbour ‘home alone’ keeping turkey under 10kg – board games – warm hearth and warmed hearts
  • Put my favourite bauble on the tree. Hippo/horse/pig thing in black boots and a fluffy tutu. Everyone tries to hide it, and I always find it. 🙂
  • Spent it alone! Also changed what I was going to do today because I could, which was a bit of a revelation tbh.
  • Thanked everyone for what they did.

Hope you all have a stress-free autumn. Go easy on the sprouts.

Piglet in red Boots

A Table

Posted on: September 30th, 2017 by Claire - 7 Comments

Fifteen years ago my boyfriend and I moved to France. That winter I bought a large oak kitchen table, and two years later we were married.

These facts are not necessarily linked, although the number of times we prepared and ate meals together at that table probably have something to do with it. Food is a kind of love glue in our house. It is not surprising, then, that we are a round-the-table sort of family. In the years that followed, high chairs came and went and countless breakfasts, lunches and dinners have been eaten together around this table.  IMG_1228

Badly spelled letters have been written to Father Christmas and left on this table with a slice of Christmas cake and a carrot and a sprinkle of magic every Christmas eve for twelve years.  Friends, neighbours, parents and grandparents have sat around this table with us and talked and laughed. It has been laid and cleared and wiped down thousands and thousands of times.

This table has not been treated preciously. It has been smeared with chocolate, spilled with wine, and decorated with greasy cat footprints following a roast chicken larceny.
table 2012

I have sat at this table with bankers and lawyers and bereaved friends. Tax returns have been prepared here, the children’s dictée grudgingly practiced and it has regularly been covered in the paint and glitter and glue of creativity. Short stories and novels have been written at this table, and it also has a cameo in the opening scene of TheNight Rainbow, covered in an oilcloth.
IMG_0242

If this table could speak it would tell you that it has heard arguments ranging from who gets a chair and who sits on the bench to the kind of words that break up families. But on balance, it is mostly kind words that have been spoken in its presence. This table has fifteen years of stories in it and every time we sit at it, whispers of those stories are there.

Table 2009_2

And that is why we brought this big, wine stained, glitter encrusted lump of wood over to England with us when we moved back here last year even though we knew our new house was really too small to accommodate it. It felt at the time as though by bringing it we were holding on to something that symbolised the heart of our family life in France. A kind of anchor.

I read this article recently where Elizabeth Luard talks about bringing her table back from Spain to London – she describes it as ‘the only thing that matters to me in my new kitchen’. I understand her sentiment exactly, which is why we have spent five seasons trying to ignore the fact it doesn’t fit in our house. We have edged around it, bumped into it’s solid corners, hefted it up against walls and back out again but the fact is, it just doesn’t fit.

So next week the table will be rehomed. It’s as solid as the day we got it, and will hopefully go on for another fifteen years at least.  I’m sad to be parted with it – it’s funny how inanimate objects can come to be so invested with emotion – and I hope that it quickly becomes more than just a piece of wood to its next family.

Food_Photo_Table 2013


Five Hot Trends in 2017

Posted on: December 12th, 2016 by Claire - 7 Comments

I am rather buoyed by the announcement that the Pantone colour of 2017 is Greenery, and that in 2017 we are going to revitalise and reconnect. Less screen, more green, perhaps:

greenery

With that in mind, I’ve looked a bit further into the fashions and trends of the coming 12 months and am pleased to offer you some predictions for what’s going to be à la mode in 2017. I’d be happy to hear your predictions too:

OUT: Believing climate change and our natural world is primarily affected by other people.

IN: Taking personal responsibility and action in our every day choices.

 

OUT: Passive aggressive facebook chain letters. Twitter activism.

IN: Sending real letters to real people. Picking up the phone. Taking action.

 

OUT: Sharing links to clickbait, propaganda, disinformation and any other kind of fake news, even to show disapproval.

IN: Rewarding good journalism by paying for it and sharing it with others.

 

OUT: Consumerism. Really, we’re done with that now, right? And that includes at Christmas.

IN: Communities. Investing our time and money to create positive change in our communities.

 

OUT: The first person I see write, “Well, 2017, you’re not much better than 2016 are you?”…

IN: Telling people how much you appreciate them while they are still alive. Helping those in need. Making things better through small acts of kindness that will add up to a whole lot.

Happy New Year, friends. xxx

Secret Santa

Posted on: November 3rd, 2016 by Claire - 35 Comments

*update* This is now closed. Secret Santas have heard from me about their bookees. Thanks everyone who is playing! xx

  1. Add a comment to this post saying you are in.
  2. Then use the contact page to send me a message saying something about yourself (for example I’m currently feeling a bit blue because my dog died, I wish I read more non-fiction and I love the outdoors) by the end of November. Please include your address which I PROMISE will be used only once for Secret Santa 2016.
  3. At the end of the month I will contact you with the address of the person whose secret santa you will be. But not the name.
  4. You will send them a book, wrapped, for Christmas.
  5. You will receive a wrapped book in the post to open at Christmas.

Rules: You can only play if I already know you in real life, or on social media.

Who wants to play?

 

 

santa

 

 

 

Why are we letting ourselves down?

Posted on: June 17th, 2016 by Claire - 7 Comments

There has been a lot of blame in the news this week and on social media. It has been almost overwhelming.

You’ve all seen it: The divisive, the shameful, the trolling, the finger pointing and the hatred… The way we talk about the EU referendum, about the massacre in Orlando, about the elections in the USA, and now about yesterday’s terrible, tragic news about the murder of Jo Cox.

We have become who the mass media wants us to become. Afraid, angry and confrontational. We are confused by party political rhetoric and scant access to useful, unbiased information. We don’t know enough about the issues of the day that affect us and others and so we dig our heels in and shout louder. We make disagreement negative and personal. We live in a world where we educate our children but not ourselves. As though we are full and complete. We have lost the desire to constantly inform and re-inform ourselves in a changing world. To seek out the truth. Yes, many of the issues in our world are complicated and in many cases far from black and white, but most of them can be explained intelligently and succinctly in a way we can all understand. But the mass media chooses not to do that and the rest of us, mostly, do nothing. If we don’t find a way to change this soon, the risks are appalling.

Photo by Rachel Carter 16th June 2016

Photo by Rachel Carter 16th June 2016

Jo Cox turned out to be, it emerged very quickly, an extraordinary, inspirational woman in many ways. Why had so few people heard of her outside of her constituency? Because striving for good doesn’t sell papers. Because her hard work and dedication does not give us the feeling of righteous indignation we seem to thrive on these days. Because no one ever posted anything on Facebook about her that went viral.

This is OUR responsibility. We can’t affect what the media decides to feed us, but this is the age of SOCIAL MEDIA. It’s an age where WE are the authors of a huge amount of the information that our friends and families consume. And what do we do with that? We share links to the Daily Mail, or Bored Panda, to pages with a thin smear of news sandwiched between thick slices of clickbait and consumer advertising.  On our Facebook pages we post selfies and updates on what we have eaten.

I like seeing photos of your families and the nice meals that have made you happy. I do. But why are we not posting and sharing more useful, helpful information? Why are we not creating and sharing more posts that allow us to learn and grow in our adulthood? Writing that helps us change our minds – because we should change our minds more often. Why are we not sharing stories about the people around us who are hard working, inspirational, and great? People to be proud of. Stories that make us proud of our country. Stories that make us want to improve ourselves and our country and our world. Why are we not telling and sharing these stories?

Why are letting ourselves down?

We need to take responsibility for this and I, for one, am going to make a concerted effort to change. Will you join me?

Drawing Breath

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by Claire - 8 Comments

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

I am learning to swim.

I did learn to swim as a child, and somehow I competed in swimming as part of Modern Pentathlon at university. But in fact I was rubbish at swimming and only managed to be on the team because I was pretty good at all the other stuff and managed to pull up my average that way, floundering my way to completion in the swim and hoping no one remembered that bit. It turned out I had never learned to swim really, despite having my badges from 10m (purple)…

10m

…to 1500m (teal), I had only learned to get from one side of the pool to the other without drowning. 1500mBadge

Time moves on twenty years. Children have been born. Years have been spent teaching THEM to swim (bear with the story, the punchline is great). And now they can swim unaided and our nearby town has a summer pool (outdoor) where twice a week there is a swimming club, and adults can go and be taught to swim better. And I am doing that.

It’s good to learn a new thing. The learning process itself affects your brain. Remembering how little you know, accepting to be ignorant, trying to be better. And so every Monday and Thursday I get in the pool with lean, fit, twenty-somethings and strive to do a little better than last time. To be stronger. To be suppler. To be more co-ordinated. But the thing I am having to relearn most of all is how to breathe.

When to breathe.

What part of my body to breathe with.

And the teacher tells me ‘Souffle!‘ when she wants me to breathe out.

And the teacher tells me ‘Inspire!‘ when she wants me to breathe in.

When she wants me to breathe in, to gasp for air, she tells me, ‘Inspire!

No one has ever had to tell me how to breathe in French before (even when I was in labour all they cared about was the souffle).

And so perhaps that is why I never realised that in French, the verb to inspire is the same as the verb to breathe.

And inspiration is the same as taking a breath.*

—————————————————————————-

*From wikipédia:

Le terme inspiration a principalement deux significations.

 

Unplugged

Posted on: July 5th, 2015 by Claire - No Comments

We plug things in to give them energy:

Our phones, our computers, the TV, tablets, games consoles…but most of us have noticed that being ‘plugged in’ ourselves actually saps our energy.

There are lots of positives to the way we communicate these days. I love hearing what my friends are up to on Facebook and I love chatting about writing on twitter. I like that you can send and receive messages instantaneously and for free, it’s practical. But somehow these things can come to seem like an obligation, as though we have to be permanently plugged in so we can respond instantly, or within a couple of hours. And an obligation like that can be a burden, draining your energy.

So, since the kids school broke up early for summer because of the heatwave, I decided to give us all just a few days breather. We got in the car and drove north for about three hours, where we set up camp  alongside the Hérault river in the Causses & Cévennes national park, somewhere none of us had ever been.

Cauldera

Cirque de Navacelles – Cauldera formed by a river

Pic Saint Loup

Pic Saint Loup

All gadgetry was banned (although I admit we adults did take our phones and use the cameras, we did switch off from social media). We took water pistols, notebooks, swimming costumes, colouring books and a guitar and bought some postcards to write. We also borrowed a donkey for a while.

Child leading donkey

Child playing guitar

We played Story Cubes a lot at mealtimes. If you’ve not heard of these I do recommend them, they are just little boxes of dice with pictures on, so when you throw them you have a ready made story prompt. We all loved them and it got quite competitive to see who could tell the most engaging story.

Of course we all read too, although I had taken along an optimistic stack of books – two novels and a short story collection – but in the end I only read a few chapters because of all the conversation we found ourselves having.

We could only be away for three days (which wasn’t nearly enough time to enjoy the region properly, two weeks would have been nice) as Mr King had to go off to work and we have our gîtes to look after now the school holidays have started here, so it’s not as if it was some kind of gadgetry cold turkey, but it was lovely. We all enjoyed it and no one missed the electronic games or the social media that we sometimes reach for automatically in our spare minutes.

Man colouring in

Mr King is doing “Man Colouring”

I would love to say that when we got back the kids have turned completely feral and that Minecraft and DVDs have been forgotten, but of course they haven’t. But unplugging ourselves briefly has replenished our energy and set the tone for the two months of summer holidays that lie ahead. I recommend it.

—–

Camp by Robert Louis Stevenson

The bed was made, the room was fit, By punctual eve the stars were lit; The air was still, the water ran, No need was there for maid or man, When we put up, my ass and I, At God’s green caravanserai.

PS: My kids had never heard the word ‘ass’ before (in this context at least), so they loved this poem…

The Fallacy of a Ukrainian Language Divide and more…

Posted on: March 13th, 2014 by Claire - 25 Comments

As someone with a strong attachment to Ukraine and its people, I have been aching for weeks to speak out. I am not Ukrainian, but I know a lot of Ukrainians, and – in the mass of media opinion and some very half-hearted reporting – I wanted their voices to be heard. A writing blog didn’t seem like the ideal place, but the papers already have a lot of column inches filled by others, so I’ve decided to talk about it here. I trust you’ll understand this diversion from the usual topics.

About me and Ukraine

Twenty years ago I worked for a big consumer goods company. I went out to the newly independent Ukraine to recruit and train a national salesforce. People thought it was a little crazy at the time, but I received the warmest welcome you can imagine. Here we are in 1997, that’s me in the middle.

Ukraine_1997

I’m not even sure, before I got the assignment, that I could have placed Ukraine on the map. Geography had never been my strong point. In the 1980s what we needed to know was that the sharp edge of the Cold War ran through Germany. In 1990 I visited Poland which by then had become a kind of buffer zone between Europe and the Soviet Union. Now of course it’s all different. Ukraine is now what stands between Europe and Russia. The word Ukraine  – Україна in Ukrainian – means the Borderlands, as appropriate now as it ever was.  

So, back in 1996 I recruited a team from around Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Lviv to the West, Odessa and Crimea to the South, Kharviv and Donetsk to the East and for the next two or three years my days were largely spent travelling to their cities and regions, to understand the market there and to train them on the job. These were young professionals who had been born into the Soviet Union, and as young adults found themselves citizens of a free Ukraine. Only five years after independence there was no doubt that they considered themselves Ukrainian. In the light of the ongoing crisis, I asked them what they really want now.

 Let’s talk about language first.

I’m a writer. Language is important to me and I’m particularly sensitive to how it is used. I’m also an expat, currently in France, and I’m aware on a daily basis how foreign languages can include or place barriers between people. There has been a lot of talk in the media about a “language divide” in Ukraine. Ukrainian speakers versus the Russian speakers. Can we stop that right now?

When I moved to Ukraine I learned Russian, not Ukrainian. Why? Because the majority of people (the notable exception being the far western region) in Ukraine in 1996 spoke Russian. Russian was the language on all the road signs, shop fronts and packaging. It was the language that everybody understood, whether they wanted it or not. Why? Since the 17th century the use of the Ukrainian language has been regularly proscribed or limited by the policies of those in power. Ukraine has a long and complicated history, click on the link if you want a flavour of that.

It had already begun to change while I was there, and over the last two decades use of Ukrainian has spread. Not extensively, as you will have read, to the ‘eastern’ and southern parts of Ukraine, but then imagine how long changing the language of a nation takes? Fortunately the two languages are relatively close, and use similar alphabets. But still, unsurprisingly, some people will never want to make the switch. (In fact, one big mistake that the interim government made earlier this year was to push through a law making Ukrainian the only official language. It was perhaps meant to be symbolic, but it was ill-considered and focusing absolutely on the wrong thing at the wrong time. There was an outcry from Russian speakers, which subsequently formed the basis of much propaganda about their ‘persecution’.) But being able to correlate the uptake of Ukrainian to either side of a physical map does not make it a political map. Language does not divide Ukraine.

What about an ethnic divide?

Have you wondered what the difference is between “Russian speakers” and “Ethnic Russians” and “Pro-Russians”? I’ve seen the terms used often in newspaper reports, and slipped in by Putin as a proxy for the “Russian citizens” he allegedly wishes to protect.

It’s quite simple. For “Russian speakers” read “Ukrainians”. For “Ethnic Russians” read “Ukrainians”: All those with Russian roots that I spoke to do not “fear for their safety” under the new interim government. They are shocked to hear how the reporting in Russia is shaping the perceptions of their relatives in Russia on the situation in Crimea. If they fear at all, it is fear of the advances of Putin on the territory of their country, and uncertainty as to when and how the international community will step up to help.

And for “Pro-Russians”? Take care. Are they ‘pro’ the language, or ‘pro’ the country? If the language, see above. If the country then ask first, are they Ukrainian citizens? Many “Pro-Russians” demonstrating in the East and South of the country are actually “Russian citizens”. Of course others are not, but the waters have been muddied so much it’s hard to judge where the balance lies.

Now there’s a way to divide people with language.

So, do Ukrainians really want to join the EU?

Some do and some don’t. But that’s not what the revolution was about. It’s true that the first protesters we saw on our screens were students protesting about Yanukovych backing out of closer ties with the EU, but that was just the spark in the powder keg. 

So where did the revolution come from?

It’s been coming for a long time. A great deal of hope arose with Ukrainian independence in 1991, even when the harsh reality of economic disparity between Ukraine and her neighbours to the west had become clear. But in the years that followed it has not been growth and a better quality of life that has emerged in Ukraine, but corruption, lawlessness and stagnation. Just like the occupying countries who came before them, those who have won political power in an independent Ukraine have creamed as much money from the people as possible and pocketed it themselves. In the last three years billions of dollars have disappeared from the state budget under Yanukovych. Ukrainians were still getting beaten down, just with a different stick.

For a long time, people didn’t speak out and that’s not surprising. For generations Ukrainians have been afraid to open their mouths. Even if the knock on the door in the middle of the night has fallen out of fashion, there are plenty of ways of dealing with people who refuse to fall in line. Crippling pressure can come from any corner: in the form of new ‘tax’ demands, from employers, from the police…anywhere.

But this time last year, small cracks started to appear. The often bitter Ukrainian winter was gripping the country but people were not receiving help from the authorities. A public solidarity rose up where people helped others in the community. They used social media to ask for and offer help. Warm food and clothes, shelter, transport assistance etc. By the way, this is the kind of people that Ukrainians are. When I lived there I never saw one person pass a beggar on the street without giving something. Not one.

Then at the end of 2013, the promised trade agreement with the EU was not signed. Yanukovych seemed to be turning away from Europe and deepening financial links with Russia. It was the students who raised their voices first – peacefully – on the Maidan. Students who saw their only hope of a prosperous future coming from the West, as part of Europe. 

It would probably have burned itself out if left to itself. But the response from Yanukovych was brutal. Students were beaten by the police. And that is when things turned.

Many more people came out to the Maidan, not to protest about the EU but to say that a regime that beats their children, their brothers, their friends, is one they could no longer accept. There was no left or right split in those protests. On the contrary they united diverse and sometimes radically opposed forces in a common aim: to end a regime – now an effective dictatorship – drenched in corruption, where people lived in fear. They came to protest peacefully, but I’m sure you have seen the outcome.

The cost of what happened next has been too high in lives and serious injuries, but there is a newfound pride in their ability to come together and take control of their own country where normal democratic means have failed them. The Maidan has brought the people closer together because they now feel stronger together. They are rising up with dignity in the face of years of corruption and abuse of power.

What do Ukrainians really want?

Now:

  • For us to hear their voices, to know that Ukrainians have solidarity and hope.
  • For people, both in Russia and the west, to understand that the propaganda they are hearing is far, far from reality.
  • An end to fear. People are afraid a war is coming. A war they want no part of. Some I spoke to are already prepared to leave their homes with their families at a moments notice.
  • Support from the International Community: A clear message that the interim government of Ukraine is legitimate, and that the occupation of Ukrainian territory and the upcoming referendum on Crimea joining Russia is not. Insistence that Russia to conforms to International laws and removes its troops from their territory. Support for Eastern and Southern Ukraine – the most vulnerable areas to further encroachment. Yesterday’s statement of the G7 leaders is a fine start, but will it be enough?
  • Whatever support can be given at all levels. Whether it’s diplomacy, sanctions, UN peacekeepers, boycotts, even just spreading information and giving moral support. Show that there is power behind the Ukrainian people.

And in the future:

  • Change in their country by legal means. Full and fair re-elections in May.
  • To stay in Ukraine and to speak whichever language they choose. Russian, Ukrainian, or both, free from bribery, injustice and corruption.
  • Help in establishing an effective, democratic government and a stronger economy. Ukraine is weak, but the people are strong and determined to build the country they want.

 

Let’s stop talking about what divides Ukrainians and talk about what unites them.

The people I spoke to speak Russian, Ukrainian and English. They are of all ethnic backgrounds. They are entrepreneurs, historians, directors, architects, translators, CEOs, engineers and parents. They want a free and modern Ukraine. They are asking for your help.

We need to stand by Ukraine, not just stand by. 

 

Further Reading:

Please do read Timothy Snyder’s truly excellent articles in the NY Review of Books. Amongst others:

Putin vs. Reality

Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda

Fascism, Russia and Ukraine

And look here for a timeline and photographs of what is happening.

What is really happening in Ukraine

On the Maidan now – is this what fascists look like? (This is a blog written in Russian, I have linked to a Google-translated version but to be honest the pictures speak for themselves.)

Pareidolic

Posted on: June 2nd, 2013 by Claire - 10 Comments

Flash Mob 2013 is a hybrid competition/blog carnival to celebrate International Flash Fiction Day on June 22nd.

It is free to take part, all you need is a previously unpublished flash fiction (300 words or less) that you have written yourself, and a blog to put it on.

*21st JUNE: Update* The Flash Mob is now LIVE!

Go here to see all the amazing entries from around the world.

Here is my flash below.

The Face of God

Pareidolic

He stumbles over the brow of a hill and into the jaws of a tempest. He hears their baying calls behind him and has no choice but to press on, pushing against the gale, through ears of corn bent low as though in prayer.

He slips through the gash in the cliff face, panting. In the embracing darkness his breath forms clouds, shape-shifting eerily, then dissipating where rain lashes at the mouth of the cave. All he can do now is wait.

Minutes pass.

Calm eventually settles, the roar and howl replaced by the creak of the grass stretching itself upright, and fat tears dripping from sodden boughs.

He peers out. The sky is a strange and perfect blue, but the weight of darkness is heavy on his skin. The thick scent of danger. The distant clamour of hooves.

He crouches in his den in the eye of the storm. He must lie low for now, he nose.

Free Review Copies of The Night Rainbow at Waterstones

Posted on: November 18th, 2012 by Claire - 2 Comments

*UPDATE*

This offer is now closed, and I was going to take down this post. But then I noticed that readers’ reviews are now coming in (you can read them here) and I wanted to say a big thank you to the reviewers, who are writing such considered and detailed reviews for The Night Rainbow. I really appreciate it. Thank you!

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I’m over the moon to be featured as one of Waterstones current six Read & Review titles.

You can enter a free draw to win one of 24 early review copies of The Night Rainbow (you need to be a Waterstones card holder, but if you don’t already have one you can easily apply for one online – there are lots of advantages).

Closing date was 6th December 2012

Spotted in The Bookseller!

Posted on: November 4th, 2012 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m in The Bookseller this week, tipped for February, which is now only 3 months away.

I’m in the last trimester of a very long gestation, and now the bookshops are starting to think about The Night Rainbow. I’m a bit excited!

Website make-over

Posted on: July 22nd, 2012 by Claire - 11 Comments

I’m having a make over.

The plan is to have an author website where news, book info etc can be found, as well as a link to my blog for those that are interested in my ramblings. The address will stay the same.

Here is the homepage work in progress. It’s based on a new wordpress theme that my clever husband has made. If you’re on your phone the blocks should appear in a column, on a tablet perhaps in a double column and on a computer in 3×3 format. But otherwise none of the links etc work yet and the text is placeholders. What do you think?

Is there anything that bugs you about author pages or websites that we should take into account? All thoughts at this stage gratefully received!

Thanks!

 

Very Inspiring Blogging

Posted on: June 25th, 2012 by Claire - 2 Comments

Thank you to two lovely and talented writers Anna JG Smith and Jessica Patient who this week have both presented me with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Hurrah!

The idea of these awards is to recognise blogs we appreciate, and a side effect is to have to tell you stuff about ourselves. Well…in the last two years I’ve already posted twice. Please do check out the blogs I suggested and read the ‘fun facts’ if you must!

  • When Martha Williams gave me the Beautiful Blogger Award in May 2010 I posted here.
  • When Oscar Windsor Smith gave me the Versatile Blogger Award in May 2011 I posted more dirty secrets here.

So for 2012 I don’t propose to add another seven interesting things about me.

However I have added one more or less interesting comment to each of their blogs, so if you’re really all that curious you’ll have to go and have a look!

I will definitely take the opportunity to point you at a few more interesting blogs though.

Do have a look at:

Peggy Riley for original and fascinating posts on writing and researching novels

Suzy Joinson for wonderful inspiration and fascinating illustrations

If you want wry and witty from a writer, do go and read Stephen May‘s blog.

Rachel Carter‘s blog always comes from the heart and hits a nerve.

If you’re hungry, go have a look at Kerry’s French revolution food blog

And if you’ve not seen it yet, go and support this VERY inspirational 9 year old girl’s blog about the quality of school dinners

 

It’s home, Jim, but not as we know it.

Posted on: May 8th, 2011 by Claire - No Comments

My interview with Miriam Drori, on life as an expat, is now up here!

Read ‘Bone Fire’ at The View From Here – Front View

Posted on: May 7th, 2011 by Claire - No Comments

Click to read A.J. Ashworth’s haunting short story ‘Bone Fire’.

 

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