Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Friday, 27 May 2016

Where Do You Like to Write?

Are you one of those writers who likes to write in cafes? If so, you're in good company. Philip Pullman is so appreciative of the Cafe at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, he acknowledges it in his Dark Materials trilogy. If the stories are true - and I think they are - JK Rowling wrote at least some of Harry Potter in the Elephant Cafe in Edinburgh. But a good writing cafe isn't just any cafe.

I've been to the Elephant Cafe, and I can see what JK liked about it. It's big enough to be anonymous, but quirky enough to be friendly. There are private corners, a jumble of chairs and tables of all sizes, and big windows that let in light and views. It's full of people who seem to like being there, and also - less predictably - elephants. Not live elephants, obviously, but ornaments and quite a lot of elephant-themed furniture. You can even sit on a chair shaped like one. It's easy to see how your imagination might be set free in a place like this.

Where I live, we're enough to have several cafes that provide good coffee (essential), and room to sit and let your mind wander. In fact, I try to match cafe and book, and may change cafes when I change book, like some people start a new notebook. But I do have one I keep coming back to. It's not unique like the Elephant Cafe - I don't think there can be many of those around; it's not even independent: it's part of a well-known chain. But like the cafe in Edinburgh, it has a big secondary room that is irregularly shaped, well-lit and comfortable, and the background noise is just right. I can't actually remember whether there was music in the Elephant Cafe, but that is as it should be. The soundtrack here is at exactly the right level: unintrusive, but to my taste if I want to pay attention to it. Otherwise, the chatter of other customers merges into it to become the sort of white noise against which I like to write.

What about you? Are you a cafe writer, or do you have somewhere else you prefer to write? Or do you just snatch time when and where you can?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Simon Cowell, Children's Author

Well, I suppose he's built his career on people who think they can perform because they've seen the professionals do it, and it looks easy ... although maybe it wasn't a good strategy to start by antagonising the entire children's book publishing industry.

Or, hang on, do people tune into The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent just to see undiscovered brilliance? Or is it true that the "talent spotters" seek out the dreadful as well, because audiences like to laugh at people making fools of themselves? - sad people who have no perspective on their own unpractised ability, or the difficulty of what they're taking on. I'd hate to see something like that happen to Simon.

Maybe we should just be glad that he's reading to his son: a joy for both of them, and with a bit of luck the child will grow into someone who loves books.

What do you think?