I’ve been doing something in secret.

It’s not as naughty as it sounds and perfectly legal, but still secret.

Each month or six weeks I get an email telling me “you’re in!” and to expect further communication soon.  Sure enough it arrives, 24 hours before the event, instructions where to go and at what time. And to bring a bottle of something refreshing.

What I’m not told is why I’m there and what is going to happen to me.

Actually, that last line isn’t quite true…

Sofar Sounds is a worldwide phenomenon, people arranging secret concerts in unconventional places, typically residential homes. What the audience is not told is who will be performing on the actual night, in fact we don’t know that until they take to the stage (or living room floor); it could be a name you’re familiar with or someone brand new. The need for respect and trust, no leaking of addresses or locations, makes it kinda sexy, with a rent party vibe. Some Sofar Sounds are free, others you chuck in a few bob and the cash goes to the artists.

sofar sign

Saturday’s Liverpool Sofar was at a new venue/café/art space in the city centre, The Well Space. And it was brilliant! My favourites – singer songwriter Esme Bridie, and R&B soul singer Jálen N’Gonda.

Esme Bridie - and Sofar Liverpool organiser Georgie Pruden
Esme Bridie
Jálen N'Gonda
Jalen N’Gonda

Our first time in The Well Space – tucked away in a quiet corner in town on Roscoe Street, and it has a library too.

sofar library

I love initiatives like Sofar Sounds, so positive and very creative.

(My secret is now out, I hope you’re not too shocked. More on Sofar Sounds here)


Liverpool Is A Village

Liverpool is a village.

I hear this, all the time. Everyone knows everyone else, and if you don’t, you know their mum. There’s an essential noseyness in the blood. I like that. It means you can walk through town anytime and see a familiar face (or their mum’s).

Amanda Brookes

I went to Liverpool author Amanda Brooke’s launch party for The Missing Husband, her brand new novel, on Thursday last at Waterstones in Liverpool ONE. As ever, because it’s Liverpool, I end up talking to people I know, lots of them.


Hello, you!

Ahh! You’re here too!

None of them writing people, just folk I know. It’s a joy. A grand evening of wine and words.


Brand New, With Tags.

I stumbled onto the wonder that is Fleabay, online classifieds. The working class equivalent of vintage, no recycled or pre-loved monikers to soften the blow, no Saturday morning traipse around the charity shops. Fleabay is second hand – or die trying. It sells everything. A collection of shoes, sizes three to nine (how many people are in your family, exactly? And why so many feet?), drum kit (“played once”), One Direction duvet set (“daughter scared of it”). 

On Fleabay, I see a Superwoman dress. It’s in my size.

Super Woman dress

 A noisy thing, primary colours shouting, Superwoman logo printed on plasticky cloth, belt drawn on, it has a suspicious shine. It’s a second skin, clinging over breasts, hips and bottom, no cute nipping in at the waist, no flared skirt to hide a pot belly. A squeeze-into frock with hem mid-thigh on the shortest of women (a knicker-skimmer on me) – and like Fleabay, irony free. I just know the belt will ride up, printed on belts never stay where they’re meant to, inching northwards with every breath.  I know it will look awful on me, unflattering, and yet…

Vigilante by Shelley Harris

A few months ago I read Shelley Harris’ magnificent novel Vigilante. Harris’ heroine, ignored by her family and husband and the world, fashions herself a superhero costume, goes out at night and fights crime. It’s the best feminist novel I’ve read since Nina De La Mer’s Layla.

While I read it, I was like, “every woman needs to read this”.

“Ok,” said my husband, not listening. “I will, sometime.”

“Hell, that’s an idea! Every MAN needs to read this!”


The idea of a woman gone invisible to the world restoring justice and her sense of self is fucking brilliant. So now, post-Vigilante, I’m looking at this dress on Fleabay and I‘m wondering, dreaming.

The dress is only a fiver. I could hang it in the wardrobe and look at it. I’ll know it’s there, just in case.  In case I need to wear it and sort out the world. I like this, the way I’m thinking now.

But the dress has no cape. Super heroines need a cape. Everybody knows that. A super heroine without a cape won’t fly.

I eye up the curtains in the spare bedroom and wonder what could be.


I have an essay on sisterhood in Walking In The Feminine: A Stepping In Our Shoes Anthology, released this month.

walking in the feminine 1

Free book festivals!

With writing and book festivals getting so pricey, it’s lovely to see free online festivals emerging, so those without cash to splash  or who have other boundaries in their way can be involved.

Coming up later in the month we have BritCrime. It features a mighty array of crime authors, plus giveaways and interactive features.

This week we saw Hayley Webster’s All The Words make its debut; Hayley chats to fab authors like Antonia Honeywell and Amanda Jennings.  Myself and others talk about our writing spaces here.


Flash Flood Journal!

My flash fiction, “Stolen“, is published on the Flash Flood Journal, part of National Flash Fiction Day’s knees up, taking place today. You can read Stolen here, plus dozens of other wonderful flashes from writers all over the world.

Landmark: 2015 National Flash Fiction Day 2015 Anthology is only 99p on Kindle, for now. Contains my story “You Promised”, a trippy tale of unrequited love. You can get a copy here.


All or nothing

I’m proud to have two non-fiction pieces out this week, both in publications funded by crowdfunding campaigns. Crowdfunding gets a lot of stick, and I myself have seen some strange and self-serving initiatives do alarmingly well (potato salads notwithstanding), but these publications are all about the positive.

walking in the feminine 1

Both Breaking Boundaries: Geeked Magazine Issue 8 and Walking In The Feminine – Stepping Into Our Shoes crowdfunded so that contributors can be paid, and receive copies of each publication. Both are small independent feminist initiatives, concerned with compensating writers and artists for the work they do.

geeked june 2015

Increasingly as creatives we are expected to work for nothing – some don’t ask, they assume – in exchange for “publicity” (read my complaint on that subject here).

I subscribe to the everyone gets paid or no one does, point of view. My question is, if two small indies like these can care for their contributors, why can’t the big companies?


It’s just like potty training. IT IS.

‘It’s just like potty training, you’ll be fine,’ my friend tells me. I’m disturbed. I’m getting varifocals for the very first time and she gives me advice like that. ‘It just takes lots of practice before you get used to them.’

Two years ago Mr Optician warned, ‘next time, we might be talking varifocals, I’m afraid’, and clicked his teeth in pity. I waited for ‘like a grandma’. It didn’t come, but we both heard it, because varifocals are a sign of grandma. My own nan had them, two milk bottle thick half-moons perched on the end of her nose. Varifocals are for old people, it’s the law.

It turns out my eyes listened keenly to Mr Optician. “Might be” morphed into “100% definite” over the two years and I’ve lived in a quiet blur for months now. It’s not always the worst way to be, avoiding sharp lines of reality, but when I found myself holding my book at a ridiculous arm’s length, I got measured up.

‘You long sightedness should level out in about ten years,’ Mr Optician smiles at me like I’m in for a treat, and I need something to look forward to.

A part of me dies.

I try on my varifocals when they are ready.

‘I can see!’ I blurt out, in front of Mr Optician. It’s a bit sad really, admitting that. Mr Optician smiles thinly, he’s heard this sort of thing before. He’s already got my money, there is no need for him to patronise me now, clicking tongues no longer necessary.

glasses q

You’re not allowed to drive, he says, with the look of someone who will take my new glasses off me if I try.

But I can’t drive and haven’t got the money to run a car anyway – I’ve just handed a wad of cash over for new specs. I walk home.

I’m walking and everything is clear and bright like just after rain, the sky washed blue, the edges of everything is hard, too clean and weirdly sharp. Perspective is all wrong; the ground looms large and wide, it feels like it’s going to smack me in the face. I have sore eyes, because any sudden movement and I have a dizzy turn; stairs are a nightmare and turn into giant steps.

The next day, my eyes like boiled eggs, I have to have a lie down in a darkened room like a Victorian heroine suffering an attack of the vapours, by mid-afternoon. I can’t do much writing, the black letters on white are hard and nasty and they hate me. Reading hurts. The arm of the glasses rubs the top of my right ear red, so I wear them at an angle, my vision turns wonky. I sulk.

Day three, and it’s better. I still have a moan and a whinge, because it seems the thing to do. By Monday I don’t remember until mid-morning that I’m wearing varifocals.

My friend was right. It is like potty training, after all, this varifocal business. Kind of. (But for slightly older people.)