Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Haepi Bookstore

Last month I wrote about this cute bookshop I bumped into below Ubumwe hotel in Kigali. Turns out it's run by Rwandan author Happy Umwagarwa who owns @Haepi_Bookstore. We've had a few back-and-forths via e-mail, but then I tuned into Twitter and completely wasn't expecting what I saw.

I really am extremely grateful to Happy. Not only running a lovely indie bookstore, but going out of her way to support and promote local and resident authors. It's bookshops like this that make all the difference to writers like myself. Hugely appreciated.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Greg Trooper

Carrying on from yesterday's post about Poet's Corner, a little more sad news.

My friend Suki is currently in New York for a celebration of the life and music of Greg Trooper (website/Wiki). As much as Poet's Corner was a part of our lives, so was Greg Trooper. Suki was a fan and friend, and dragged us along to see him play The Musician in Leicester. We all became firm fans.

Very sadly, he died of cancer on 15th January, two days after his sixty-first birthday.

All of his songs were wonderful, but my top ten are probably:

  1. Lovin' Never Came That Easy (Straight Down Rain)
  2. This I'd Do (Backshop Live and Live at the Rock Room, recorded Make It Through This World)
  3. I'm So French (Between a House and a Hard Place)
  4. Every Heart Won't Let You Down (Popular Demons) 
  5. Lucky That Way (Floating)
  6. When I Close My Eyes (Popular Demons)
  7.  Hummingbird (Floating) 
  8. Once and For All (Between a House and a Hard Place)
  9. Halfway (Between a House and a Hard Place)
  10. Dream Away The Blues (live version Backshop Live, recorded Make It Through This World)
You can find his albums on iTunes. The Backshop Live is my favourite. Really great live album, as is Between a House and a Hard Place. I can't seem to see it on iTunes at the moment, but if you can get hold of a copy it's excellent. There's also his fnal album, Live At The Rock Room, which I haven't heard yet, and there's a great live set uploaded on YouTube - Good Luck Heart.

Please buy his music, keep it alive.

About six years ago I took a trip back to Cardiff to catch up with some of the old gang. Caught up with a wonderfully pregnant Suki and a slightly less-hairy-than-before Gedge. It coincided with a Trooper concert. Suki couldn't go because of baby commitments, but I took dad along and Greg was good enough to sign a baby romper for the new arrival. Gone far too soon, but left some wonderful music behind, and a lovely message to all us artists trying to scrape a living.

Cardiff Crew

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Poet's Corner

Ah, bejeezus.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Just heard from my good friend Suki that one of our old haunts has been reduced to this...

It's a pub called Poet's Corner in Cardiff (formerly Tut 'n' Shive, formerly, formerly Poet's Corner). Affectionately known as PC's.

Many, many good times had there and at Y Mochyn Du. Mochy was the summer beer sipping venue, this was the heavy watering hole.

Before some numpty took a pot of varnish to it, the place used to have real character. The seating upstairs was an old Waltzer carriage, and there were fascinating facts painted all over the wall, like 'If you ironed out all the hills in Wales, it'd be bigger than England,' and 'This is the site of the old gallows.' There were still quite a few dead bodies in there, from what I recall.

It was the place where I overheard a conversation between two IT guys and drunkenly approached them shouting 'I need an IT guy!' Ended up hiring Gedge to network an office I managed, and so began a lifelong friendship. Suki was also working at that office, and the other IT guy with Gedge was Pete. Myself and friend Phil met their friend Mark, and the rest is a haze of alcohol.

It was a truly splendid few years, and PC's was a cornerstone of that. Even if, whilst walking home one night, I was accosted and lightly stabbed. But, small things.

PC's, I salute you. Line up a pint of Reverend and I'll drink it on the other side x




Thursday, 23 March 2017


I'm resurrecting this from the time I spilt tea on my keyboard.

It has been a traumatic 24 hours. I was sailing happily along with Still Life. Coming along grand, when my new laptop of four months suffered a hard drive meltdown. Had to take it into town to get it fixed. They've reassuringly told me they can do it 'cost for cost'. I have no idea what the crap that means. It's still under warranty.

Whilst I wait to hear more, I've pulled my old laptop out of retirement. Funny story there - it has no battery (a funny story I'm not actually going to recount). As such, it works well - unless the power goes out. Then I lose everything.

On top of that, the keyboard no longer works, so I have to use a USB one that's chunky as hell. Got these big, fat nineteen-eighties keys. My brain rattles in my sleep. 

Between the high probability of hitting the wrong key every second word, and the very real possibility of losing the whole manuscript to an outage void, I'm giving writing a break until the other machine is fixed. Thankfully I backed up my writing to the cloud, and my external hard drive, just before everything went tits up. 

Being a writer without a decent keyboard is some special form of torture. I can't resort to pen and pad. My handwriting is so bad I might as well throw it into the outage void.

Now really is very bad timing.

After a particularly decadent night with friends, I've also decided to quit booze and cigs until the end of the month. This article made me laugh. I'm doing pretty well at the moment. Just got achy shoulders. That's either quitting or malaria. Find out soon enough. Though Dorothy Peel and Maysie Strang are my new heroines - boozing and smoking into their 100s.

“I decided to pack in smoking when I was 103 because I got bronchitis and the doctor warned me my life was in danger!" - Dorothy Peel

An inspiration to us all.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Author

Just a quick heads up. I have a brief article (including typo *hangs head in shame*) in The Author. It's a shaved down version of my regular ire over the lack of access to the international publishing scene faced by authors in countries without functioning online payment systems. But much briefer, and better edited.

Seriously. If you're a writer, join the union. 

Also, I'm teaching again in Kigali from next Friday. If you're in Rwanda, come join. If you're not, move to Rwanda. The beer's cheap, the weather is usually perfect and - gorillas. The Land of a Thousand Hills, inspiring a thousand stories.