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What I learned at DyslexiFest

12 Oct

This was supposed supposed to be a proper reblog, where the original post appears below, and you can read the first part of it right here, but I’m currently away from my laptop and it turns out not to be so easy on a phone. I’m doing my best, OK?

Anyway, the point of this pseudo-reblog is that I’ve just written a wee piece for Dyslexia Scotland’s blog, A Life Less Ordinary, about four things I learnt at DyslexiFest.

DyslexiFest (which I find ironically hard to spell) was a “celebration of all things dyslexic” that was held in Glasgow last weekend. Don’t think there’s anything to celebrate about dyslexia? Read my previous posts on the subject (here and here) or just have a read of the Dyslexia Scotland blog.

Anyway, you can read about it the event here: #DyslexiFest

Meanwhile, I will think fondly of my laptop sitting obediently on my desk. But with a smartphone (and, importantly, a charger) in my bag, I’m sure I will find plenty of ways to amuse myself while pretending I’m working.

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The Gate of Desire Ajar

21 Sep

There’s a poem on the wall next to platform 10 in Glasgow Central station. posted up there to mark the relaunch of the Caledonian Sleeper service (unfortunately with sharply increased prices, meaning that I will be unlikely ever to sample its comforts). It’s by Alfred Cochrane, an English cricketer and I was rather taken by it, so I looked for it on the web, naturally, and couldn’t find it – well, not apart from a couple of references in old issues of the Oban Times.

It is called “Northward Bound”, apparently (or
“Northward Bound Once Again”), and it beautifully sums up the call of the Highlands, which even the least energetic among us (i.e. me) feel the power of. It has a rather poignant, bittersweet beginning, but works its way up to a much more uplifting ending.

I think it deserves to be more widely known, so as it’s not online, I’m going to put it there. (Don’t worry, it’s out of copyright – just.)

And in case you have difficulty reading from the photos, or you’re using text-to-speech, here’s the full text:

Does your heart still beat with the old excitement
As you wait where the Scotch expresses are?
Does it answer still to the old indictment
Of a fond delight in a sleeping car,
As it did when the rush through the autumn night
Meant the gate of desire ajar?

Or has the enchanting task grown tougher?
Has the arrow beyond you flown?
The hill that was once rough enough grown roughter,
The steepest climb you’ve ever known?
For the forest abhors a veteran duffer,
Sorely beaten and blown.

Ah, the years, the years, they are rusty and mothy;
The flesh it is weak, that once was strong.
But the brown burn over the stone falls frothy;
The music it sings is a siren song
And the pony’ll take you as far as the bothy,
And that’ll help you along.

See! From the tops the mist is stealing!
Out with the stalking glass for a spy!
Round Craig an Eran an eagle is wheeling,
Black on the blue September sky.
A fig for the years! Why, youth and healing
At the end of your journey lie.

Alfred Cochrane

By popular request – a post in Albanian (postim ne shqip)

25 Jul

(Ok, readers who don’t speak Albanian, just skip to the next post – this one’s for the Albanians who don’t speak English.)

Te dashur lexues shqiptarë, ja një postim në shqip me në fund. Do të më falni për gabimet në shkrimin.

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Dyslexia-Friendly Storytelling

15 Feb

I’ve just written a wee blog post for Dyslexia Scotland about the BBC’s 500 Word story competition for children – a very dyslexia-friendly competition, as it happens. Who said dyslexics can’t be successful authors?

A Life less ordinary

child-writingA couple of weeks ago, the BBC launched this year’s 500 Words competition. 500 Words is a writing competition for children between 5 and 13 years old. Each entrant submits one story of up to 500 words. The three winners in each age category win either their own height in books, the Duchess of Cornwall’s height in books (5’6”), or DJ Chris Evans’ height in books (6’2”).

Entries are judged on

  • originality
  • plot
  • characterisation
  • language

Crucially, entries are not judged on spelling, punctuation or grammar. In fact, the official rules say that entries are judged “without regard” for these potential stumbling blocks for young dyslexic writers.

Entries are also submitted by copying or typing into an online text box. A helpful adult is supposed to do this bit, and to fill out the rest of the online entry form for the child. That removes another potential barrier for children with…

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Robin Hood on the Other Side

20 Nov

I recently had a cross-timezone Skype chat with Mike Huberty, a rock musician who also runs a podcast called See You on the Other Side. The podcast deals with pop culture and the paranormal (fairly interesting, right?) and I was talking to him, naturally enough, about Robin Hood in connection with my new book, Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong.

If you want to listen into to our conversation, and find out my fun facts about Will Scarlett and the dodginess of medieval May Games, you can listen to the podcast on Mike’s site, or on Podbean, or iTunes.

Happy listening!

The wonderful, awful business of being an author

8 Sep

As I obviously have oodles of time on my hands, trying to finish a novel (The Sarcophagus Scroll) while simultaneously preparing a non-fiction book for publication (Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood is Wrong), this must be the perfect time to host a question-and-answer time on AMAfeed (Ask Me Anything).

Anyway, whether I am superhuman, or thrive on challenge, or am simply mad, I have scheduled the Ask Me Anything for Tuesday 11th September at 2.30pm, UK time. You can post your questions before then (and I can answer them), but they won’t show up until Tuesday afternoon.

If you know anyone who’s curious about the business of writing professionally, encourage them to pose a question for me. If it throws up anything interesting, I may post the link again once the Q&A has closed.

Church ministers? Bunch of slackers! 

18 Oct

I’ve just done a blog post for Premier Christianity about why church ministers have the easiest job in the world. Before you start fuming, I should say that it’s not an entirely serious argument, to put it mildly.

It was commissioned because it’s Thank Your Vicar Week. So if you have a vicar (/pastor/minister) why don’t you give the article a read and then maybe send them a nice email? Although I can’t promise they will have time to read it.

The Power of Purple

14 Jul

If you’re dyslexic, you’re close to a dyslexic, or you’re just the curious type, you may want to read my latest blog post for Dyslexia Scotland. Its working title was “Methods of alleviating the symptoms of dyslexia”, but fortunately I came up with something slightly snappier 😉 

https://alifelessordinaryds.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/the-power-of-purple/amp/

Rio’s Hug

10 Aug

This blog post is simply going to direct you to another blog post, on Premier Christianity‘s website. But no, I’m not being lazy, because I wrote that post too.

If you have seen the statue of Christ the Redeemer on your TV during the Olympics, and want to hear my musings about its significance, and how it connects to the Games, please do have a wee read:

Christ the Redeemer: Why Rio’s statue is the true God of the Olympics

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Photo: Paul Mannix

The compassionate embrace includes everyone, from Olympic athletes to drug dealers, from top politicians to favela kids.

Good Friday Thoughts

25 Mar

Good Friday is an odd one. It’s very solemn and sombre for Christians because we’re essentially pretending (by way of memorial) that Jesus is dead, even though we know that he has been risen for some time now. It’s an opportunity for ecumenical events (meaning joint with different kinds of churches), during which people tiptoe awkwardly around the fact that they know very little of their companions’ practice of faith or the vocabulary that accompanies it (communion/Eucharist/mass/Lord’s Supper; priest and clergy vs minister and leadership team etc.), even though it’s the same faith they’re practising. At post-service snacks, some enthusiastically scoff hot cross buns while others, who are fasting, quietly don’t. A strange time, but a bit of disorientation can be good to snap you out of your usual life and help you remember what this Easter lark is all about, anyway (and it’s not chocolate bunnies or the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, as a historically and etymologically illiterate Facebook meme would have us believe).

It’s an even stranger one than usual this year, because Good Friday (the memorial of the crucifixion) lands on the same day as the memorial of the Annunciation (when the angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus), meaning that (if you’re in a church that takes note of these things) we’re celebrating Jesus’ arrival as a baby whilst also mourning his death. I had only recently found out about the tradition that the Annunciation and the crucifixion were both on 25th March (to keep things nice and neat), so it’s quite serendipitous for me that in the year I find this out, the memorial of the crucifixion (which depends on the lunar calendar, thus a literally moveable feast) falls on the anniversary.

(There’s also a superstition that their coincidence is supposed to presage national disaster, such as the death of a monarch. Given how many famous people have already died in 2016, that wouldn’t be terribly surprising – but let’s hope it’s only as true as superstition usually is.)

Anyway, the article that drew my attention to this nice syncronicity is very well written and interesting, with lots of lovely pictures and (if you keep going to the end) a brilliant poem by John Donne called, rather unimaginatively, Upon the Annunciation and the Passion Falling upon One Day – so I will simply link to it so that you can enjoy it:

This doubtful day of feast or fast – Clerk of Oxford

Happy Easter!