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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Meeting with Sara Maitland - and news of a Christmas Special

I’m enjoying this brief hiatus. Now that I’m not doing the ‘Mike-Pannett-in-London’ book until May I am free to spend some time on my own work-in-progress - and to solicit some opinions on what I have written so far. As luck would have it, today I am meeting up with Sara Maitland ( who’s in Durham to promote her new book, Gossip From The Forest, published by Granta. I understand that it’s about fairy stories, and their genesis in ancient woodlands.

Sara and I have known each other for about ten or twelve years. She is a much better known author than I will ever be, having started to publish books way back in the 1970s. We met when we were both earning a few pounds as correspondence tutors for the Open College of the Arts. I think she was at one stage a course leader as well. Around 2000 or 2001 she recommended me as a reader to The Literary Consultancy (, and boy, was I grateful! I have been reading for them ever since - largely non-fiction. In fact, just as I sat down to write this the `phone rang and there they were, offering me a couple of short manuscripts to read next week - and that means I now have a budget for Christmas presents.  

Sara also helped me out in 2005 (I think it was 2005; it could’ve been later, possibly earlier… the memory ain’t what it used to be….) Anyway, she needed somebody to paint the inside of her new house up in remotest Galloway, and she must have remembered hearing me talk about my DIY days, when I spent all my leisure hours painting, decorating and fixing old houses (mostly mine). Would I take hers on - for a suitable fee? You bet I would. I had a very enjoyable week up there, grafting away in the daytime, eating hearty meals and conversing at length in the evenings. I fondly remember our first trip to her local pub, about four miles away down a narrow track. I was telling the landlady how much I was enjoying the beer and what a pity it was that we had to drive home. She produced a large jug, poured four pints into it, spread cling-film across the top and sent us on our merry way.

Anyway, the point of all this is that Sara has kindly volunteered to look at the two-page piece I have composed extolling the virtues of Casual Work: Further Education in a Time of Full Employment. Yes, I know… it used to be called something else. I’m at that stage just now when I change the title every time I re-draft it. But the fact is, this hiatus (see paragraph 1) is allowing me time to get back into it and, with luck and a following wind, to complete it.

So, I shall down this cup of tea and set off to town. I’m meeting Sara and taking afternoon tea in the rather elegant cafĂ© on the green outside the cathedral.

And by the way, if you’d like to see the outside of Sara’s house, check out her Book of Silence: it’s on the cover. And here, I hope...

Tomorrow I hope to post news of a couple of Seasonal Specials. 

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