Monthly Archives: October 2011

National Novel Writing Month, Bristol

November is a hop, skip and a jump away which means so is National Novel Writing Month. 30 days of writing 1667 words a day in order to complete a 50,000 word novel. It doesn’t have to be a quality piece of work. It can be anything and I’ve heard of people getting to the end by typing potato every other word. No matter. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel then this is the time to join in with millions of other people around the world.

If you live in Bristol and Bath then there are plenty of real world meet-ups and chats going on as well. Check out the Bristol and Bath forum or your own regional branch. Come join us – it’s fun.

I am taking part for the seventh time and you can find me on the site as Josiekin or on Twitter as @stillawake.

NaNo in a Nutshell

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by the NaNo web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

Where: You write wherever you’d like. On your computer, on your iPad, on a typewriter—anywhere is fine, just as long as you’re writing!

Bristol Write-Ins: Every Thursday from 6pm and every Sunday from 2pm in the Watershed throughout November.
Bath Write-Ins: The first one is from 5pm at the Green Park Brasserie in Bath on Tuesday.

Giveaway Winners

The giveaways have now been closed and after 80 entries there have been three winners.

The winners have been contacted and will be receiving Full Dark, No Stars, First Among Sequels and Something Rotten respectively.

Thanks everyone and thanks Leeswammes for making it all such a great success.

Literary Blog Hop – October 15 to 19

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop


Welcome to the Literary Blog Hop hosted by Leeswammes.

The Ephemeral Digest is one of around 50 blogs taking part in a giveaway extravaganza that will last until October 19. Each blog is giving away at least one book and most will deliver worldwide so take a look. You do not need to have a blog yourself.

I am giving away two books. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (new) and First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde (gently read).

To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave a comment telling me which book would be your first choice. I will post worldwide.

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Devouring Texts
  3. The Book Whisperer
  4. Seaside Book Nook
  5. The Scarlet Letter (US only)
  6. Rikki’s Teleidoscope
  7. Bibliosue
  8. Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  9. The Book Diva’s Reads
  10. Gaskella
  11. Lucybird’s Book Blog
  12. Kim’s Bookish Place
  13. The Book Garden
  14. Under My Apple Tree
  15. Helen Smith
  16. Sam Still Reading
  17. Nishita’s Rants and Raves
  18. Ephemeral Digest
  19. Bookworm with a View
  20. The Parrish Lantern
  21. Dolce Bellezza
  22. Lena Sledge Blog
  23. Book Clutter
  24. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (US only)
  25. The Blue Bookcase
  26. Book Journey (US only)
  27. The House of the Seven Tails (US only)
  28. In One Eye, Out the Other (US only)
  29. Read, Write & Live
  30. Fresh Ink Books
  1. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US only)
  2. Bibliophile By the Sea
  3. Laurie Here Reading & Writing Reviews
  4. Amy’s Book World (US only)
  5. Teadevotee
  6. Joy’s Book Blog
  7. Word Crushes (US only)
  8. Thinking About Loud!
  9. Kinna Reads
  10. Sweeping Me
  11. Minding Spot (US only)
  12. Babies, Books, and Signs (US only)
  13. Lisa Beth Darling
  14. Tony’s Reading List
  15. SusieBookworm (US only)
  16. Tell Me A Story
  17. Close Encounters with the Night Kind
  18. Nerfreader
  19. Mevrouw Kinderboek (Netherlands, Belgium)
  20. Boekblogger (Netherlands)
  21. In Spring it is the Dawn
  22. No Page Left Behind
  23. Elle Lit

The Lahloo Pantry, Clifton

If any place was suited to host a fine dining experience in tea then it was meant to be Clifton and it could only be from Lahloo Tea.

The premises of what used to be Thaiphoon have been transformed into a light and open establishment set over three levels. There are seats upstairs and downstairs while just past the entrance there is a bench full of freshly baked cakes, scones and salads. Tarts, salads, eggs and cinnamon buns are all made in the little kitchen downstairs and there is a toaster available for some self-service snacks.

Scones I

A bookcase is filled with jams made on the premises: strawberry and vanilla; lemon, grapefruit and orange; and cherry and ginger. Most importantly, there is a menu dedicated to the excellent loose leaf tea which varies from herbal, green and includes a Bristol Brew.

The highlight of my two visits so far has included the honey matcha latte made with soy milk (£3) and a cheese scone served with ricotta creme fraiche and chilli jam. Indeed, the latter also produced one of my saddest moments there, as I finished the scone while I still had chilli jam left but nothing on which to eat it.

Matcha Latte

On the last visit, my friend Matt ordered the banana bread which was served with a rich looking, almost orange in colour, butter. Enjoy some of his pictures.


Lahloo, 12 Kings Road, Clifton, Bristol

Let’s Get Creative

Finding activities on offer in Bristol is not difficult, Bristol classified ads are crammed full of classes, workshops and lessons. So this month get creative and take part in some of these exciting programmes.

Worlds In A Box (Saturday, 15th October)

The Bristol Drawing School is putting on a unique event for the over 8s. During the daylong class budding artists will learn to create a layered paper and card dream box. The pupils will be encouraged to use their imagination to create this world in a box, bringing home with them a masterpiece created from paper and colouring pens. The class will be led by Rose Popay, who will guide the children through the creation of this mini world whilst exploring the classes’ favourite things.

Bring with you:

  • Pictures of your favourite things and some boxes

More information:

  • Tickets cost £35 pounds and the class will take place from 10am – 4pm
  • For more information call 0117 906 7601 or have a look at

Creative Writing (Tue 25 Oct)

For the creative adults out there, The Writing Edge is putting on workshops for all the budding novelists out there. The supportive group aim to cherish and nourish your words, and help them come out onto the page. Whether you are new to the scene or have been jotting down tales for years, everyone is welcome.

The workshop aims to provide an environment which will help your musings transform into words, and it is not all about being published. Bring a pen, paper and enthusiasm; you will be scribbling away in no time.

More information:

  • The Writing Edge ask for donations of £3.50 or more
  • The workshop is held at The Pierian Centre on Portland Square
  • Classes run from 7:30pm–9pm
  • For more information contact or visit
This post was brought to you by Gumtree.

A series of leaps


A Bristolian leap

Tyrannosaur, reflection

Paddy Considine made his directorial debut in the 2008 BAFTA winning short film Dog Altogether about a violence-fuelled man and a charity worker. Tyranossaur is an expansion of that film and explores the relationship in which the charity worker’s character is being abused.

Olivia Colman’s role in Paddy Considine’s new movie is not a surprise. They first met on Hot Fuzz and went on to play together in Le Donk and Scor-say-zee. In Tyrannosaur, Considine directs Colman in a story about as far as you could go from the lighthearted tone of their previous feature works.

The story features, Joseph, (Peter Mullan), a man with anger and alcohol issues. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with a Christian woman (Olivia Colman) working at a charity shop who is caught up in an abusive relationship.

The strongest performance is from Colman who impresses with an amazing repertoire that rings true throughout. Mullan rages quietly, bursts into anger and settles again just as seamlessly. The anger jars at first but it’s not long before it stops being a surprise and he becomes the one with which we identify.

The one part which seemed slightly out of character was a break in the proceedings where a pub full of people became drunk and merry. In an environment where alcohol is more a weapon than a means of escape, this just didn’t sit right. However, it did serve to show that the movie and circumstances were about the people and the characters rather than anything else. There were no excuses and no extenuating circumstances.

Considine has created a story where the relationships and the environment blend together in a harsh commentary about taking responsibility for your actions. It is well worth watching.


Interview with Paddy Considine and Olivia Colman in the Guardian.

Charlie Condou, the three of them

There is a new column in the lifestyle section in the Guardian by Charlie Condou where he writes about his family. This family is a minority one, where he and his male partner are raising their children, and will raise their future child, with single mother Catherine. There’s something about it which feels quite personal because it talks about a single parent and a couple.

My little girl is being raised a little like that at the moment but not quite. There are two of us in my household but we are not a couple. Her father and I are single parents, separately.

The second column was published on Saturday and I had been looking forward to it all week. I realise that they also have an unorthodox setting but it feels more normal than mine does. Their babies have been planned and born into loving households. The babies have been living with the two sets of parents from the start.

There was a paragraph in the second column which stood out for me.

Today was the all-important 20-week scan, the one where we find out if everything’s OK. This is the pregnancy halfway point where we get to check that everything’s developing normally and, should we choose, to find out the baby’s sex. We all went along, Catherine lying on the examination table while my partner Cameron and I squashed into the space that would usually be occupied by just the one loving husband, taking it in turns on the single chair.

That sentence seemed to say that they were unorthodox compared to the typical family which consists of a husband and wife. He was right to the extent that the most common type of household in the UK is the married couple (68%), this still leaves a lot of unmarried people. In fact the percentage of married couples fell from 72% in 2001. 15.3% of couples cohabit and 16.2% of families are lone parents.

I thought it was interesting that the ‘other’ to which Condou compares himself is a married couple while for me it is any loving couple. I went to my 20 week scan alone (with the baby for company, of course) and I thought how wonderful their visit sounded with the three of them together.

Either way, the column is fascinating no matter what family situation you are experiencing.

The Three of Us by Charlie Condou in the Guardian.

Not laughing at women? you should be

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink can be summed up as ‘trust your instinct except when it’s wrong’. Simplistic, certainly, and a description that may not get at the very readable account that Gladwell presents. His point is that experts should rely on their gut instinct and the rest of us would benefit from trying to identify from where we gain our instinctive reactions. If we are not experts then they must necessarily come from biases because we don’t have all the information.

This occurred to me when I saw Dara O’Briain tweet a self-proclaimed feminist, Sianushka, about women in comedy clubs. She asked ‘why don’t Mock The Week hire more female comedians’? He replied along the lines of ‘because that would be positive discrimination’ (I’m paraphrasing). Sianushka went on to say something about weak cultural assumptions, e.g. women = bad drivers and it sounded like the wrong argument.

Are women put off by ‘vague cultural assumptions’ Dara asked? Female comedians he knew would find that insulting.

The argument was all backwards.

It’s like asking a selective university like Oxford or Cambridge why they don’t have more working class students. Most of the time they would answer that those students don’t apply. Those students don’t get the grades to apply to selective institutions. The biggest predictor of going to university is achieving the grades.

I don’t know why there aren’t as many female as male comedians but I am pretty sure that it’s not because the person booking the acts decided not to let women perform. I could be wrong. Perhaps the idea that women comedians aren’t funny is a lot more pervasive than I think.

There have been studies that have tried to prove discrimination in the practices of admissions tutors for entries in higher education. The studies don’t usually do very well at proving bias.

The bigger reason is that students don’t apply. Some think that students don’t apply because of tuition fees. The fees that were introduced in 2006, then the ones that will cost up to £9000 a year from 2012. No matter that the students won’t have to pay up front. That the poorest students who may earn the least will pay the least. That free higher education is also free to those who pay thousands of pounds to secondary school.

The perception of higher education isn’t the same for all people. Some students grow up surrounded by people who have gone to university, who have at least one degree, who have been interviewed, who know what courses to take, what subjects to study, what to do and how to proceed. Then there are other students who know no one who has gone on to tertiary education. People who have never left the area in which they grew up let alone leave home to go to university or even for an interview.

So why did I think of that when the comedian and the feminist were tweeting? Because she made a very weak argument with the bad drivers example. Not because people don’t think it – they may, I don’t know. I guarantee however that insurers don’t think it and when it comes to paying for bad drivers, 18 year old boy drivers are paying huge premiums because of reality rather than rumours.

The professionals know the difference and like Gladwell pointed out – if you’re not an expert then examine your biases. But who are the experts in the comedy world? And why aren’t women better represented? Any ideas? Here’s an article on this subject from the @sianushka. I don’t have an answer but I like the question.