Back in the Room again!



The harvest is in and I am back in the Hosking Houses Cottage in Clifford Chambers writing again! What a joy it is to be back in this peaceful setting, hidden away from the demands of normal life, where I have written my best work.  I have until the end of September and plan to make the most of it. There’s nothing like walking to focus the mind, turn over new ideas and take stock of a year, which has been momentous – with my musical I Capture the Castle making its world premiere at Watford Palace Theatre and touring to Bolton Octagon and Oxford Playhouse and my eldest daughter getting married. It’s good to be back!

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A New Kitten

Sarah Hosking has a new kitten called Doris to add to her menagerie of creatures.

I couldn’t resist a picture!


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Back in the Room

I am back at the Hosking House again – this little bit of paradise.

The winter fields of turned mud and root crops have been sown with wheat, bright and green with heavy heads, waving in the wind.

Sarah Hosking welcomed me with open arms and a wonderful supper on the first night.

My writing routine is so much easier here.  I feel at peace.


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Exciting Plans for the Hosking Houses Trust

This weekend I was lucky enough to find myself back in Stratford, to watch the RSC’s Volpone, Merchant of Venice and Othello. I went to support my collaborators Steven Edis (composer of the music in Trevor Nunn’s production of Volpone) and Brian Protheroe, who was appearing in both The Merchant of Venice (as Aragon) and Othello (as Brabantio).

I also spent a perfect Sunday afternoon drinking tea with Sarah Hosking, in Clifford Chambers, talking about the Hosking Houses Trust and her plans for its future. I also had the chance to meet  Elizabeth Speller who was living at the HHT cottage working on a new novel.

The Chairman of the HHT, Paul Edmondson, has just raised some £5,000 worth of funds for future projects by running a marathon in Prague. The Trust hopes to build an extension to the cottage which will allow visual artists and composers to also make use of the residency in the future.

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Leaving the Room


The residency came to an end as all good things do.

I packed up my paper and pens, no that was in another era- I packed up my computer and printer and all the books and papers and the comforting rug I like to keep with me when I’m working.

Peer Gynt, the cat, looked disdainfully at the basket that awaited him and it took quite a lot of goes to actually stuff him into it.  Why can’t he be one of those nice fat cats who walk into their baskets smiling.  No, I have to have the cat who will use every ounce of his strength, every nail and tooth and toe to cling onto the edges of the basket and not go in.  But somehow I did it by holding onto his scruff and stuffing.  After that I had to have tea and a sit down.

Sarah Hosking came to bid me farewell and charged me with keeping in touch, which I know I will, because Stratford has become my other home now.

I drove back to London with a new musical.  I knew it still needed a lot more work but it was a good beginning.

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Angels Can Fly Because They Take Themselves Lightly

sally_vickers_trans_aboutThe Hosking Houses Trust staged an enchanting evening on the theme of angels. ‘Angels fly  because they take themselves lightly’ – G.K. Chesterton.

It was held at St Helen’s Church, in Clifford Chambers, on Sunday. Author of ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’, Salley Vickers, gave a wonderfully erudite talk about Angels, illustrated in three beautiful stories.


We also listened to the magical sounds of young harpist, Ciara Willson, dressed as a Pre-Raphaelite  angel.

The Rev. Paul Edmundson, who is Chair of the Hosking Houses Trust, gave a lovely introduction to the evening and we also heard from the local Vicar, Rev. Patrick Taylor, who is also the Vicar of the famous Shakespeare church Holy Trinity, in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The Clifford Village choir sang “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” beautifully. Unfortunately the hymn still reminds me of giggling over our alternative words at the convent, when I was small – “Most amazing gravy, glor-or-or-or-or -ria!”  Below is my picture of the choir, singing their hearts out.


Sarah Hosking, who started up the Trust, thought up the event and made it happen beautifully! When it was all over, I glimpsed her smiling, behind the wings of an angel.


And finally I had to add this sweet picture of our angel – because even angels have to warm their hands on the heater!


When peace shall over all the earth it’s ancient splendours fling, and the whole world give back the song, which now the angels sing…

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It was wonderful to get so much feedback from the team about the new show, and  to work on it at the cottage.

We read out the whole script, commenting on things as we went and exchanged thoughts we had had from our reading over the week.  It was hilarious hearing some of the voices, which were quite different from those in my head, but so much better!

We also had a really helpful conference call with our producer.

The verdict seemed to be that Act II was a pretty solid start,  but I have more to do on Act I. I wasn’t surprised, because I’d known there was a crucial aspect that needed work on Act I the moment I’d sent it off to everyone!

It was wonderful being able to share it all and also hear some more of the new music and talk over ideas for songs.

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I am musing on the first draft of the show: turning over the moments I think need more work, wondering about intentions, song moments, choices, characters…

Tomorrow my collaborators and I will be reading out the first draft and discussing the show properly for the first time.  I have had bits of feedback from Brian already and miraculously we seem to have both focussed on the moment that needs strengthening the most – amazing!


Walking is always a good way to muse. Above is one of my favourite trees overlooking the River Stour, taken on a frosty cold morning a few days ago.

Another place that’s really good for thinking is the Hosking House bath – a huge roll top bath in the corner of my bedroom. There is no shower and so I have a bath every morning instead.

This always makes me think of my children’s great grandfather Dilly Knox, who had a bath in his office at Bletchley during the war,  where he was the chief cryptographer, and employed Turing as part of his team.  With the help of the bath, Intelligence Service Knox and his team disseminated nearly 150,000 German coded messages including intelligence that helped us on D Day.

This is from a Poem called Alice in ID25 by Frank Birch which alludes to Dilly’s bathing: “The sailor in room 53 has never, it’s true, been to sea but though not in a boat he has served afloat – in a bath in the admiralty.”

My musings are not fraught with the same responsibility as Dilly’s but I lie there pondering how to make this story work and then slowly, lapped by the warmth and comfort it emerges, another idea that I hope will make everything better.

That’s when I realise that the water has begun to grow cold!!!

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First Draft

I have been silent for a while – this is because I was finishing the first draft of the show.  It has now gone out to my collaborators, my agent and our producer.

Once it had gone I realised that there was something crucial missing! But I shall save that up and everything else that will filter through in those quiet moments, when I meet the guys next week.  They are coming up to work with me, which is really exciting after all these weeks of isolated writing!

I am trying not to think about what my first audience are thinking.  I am not looking at the work either.  I’m getting on with other things to distract myself.  This is a tense moment for all writers – the first exposure of your writing.  But I try not to be too precious about it.

Unlike Willy Russell I have never thought that anything I wrote was the finished product before someone else looked at it.  I was shocked to hear Mr Russell say he doesn’t do re-writes, at an MMD interview.  Perhaps when you are that well known you can slap a script down on a producer’s desk and say do that or I’ll take it away from you.  But I still don’t think I would, because I think you gain so much from collaborating with other people, and mixing up ideas, sometimes you come back to your own beginning again, but at least you have tried other ways.


Although it seemingly took only seven weeks to write the book of the show, this is because I had spent a year doing research and working on a really detailed synopsis, even with some dialogue.  I had already had meetings with my collaborators and done a lot of re-writes. So when I began work at the cottage it never felt like a blank page.  Instead it was a working document that I was bringing to life. This feels like a far less frightening way of working!

I took myself off to Charlecote Park, just outside Stratford, to blow away the cobwebs.  It is a beautiful old place, with wild stag and shaggy cows in the grounds.  The RSC used a copy of the Medieval gateway to the house as the set for their latest productions of Love’s Labours Lost and Much Ado.

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Remembrance Sunday

DSCN0495 This morning I was invited to the Remembrance Service for Clifford Chambers at  St Helen’s Church.

After  hymns and readings we all silently stepped outside the church behind the Vicar, to stand round the memorial cross in the square.  The vicar waited for that magical stillness in the crowd before he spoke and then a bugle was played beautifully in the tingling blue air.

Two decorated ex-servicemen, wearing bowler hats, ceremonially deposited wreaths on the steps of the memorial.  I watched them, so solemn and reverential, and wondered what horrors they had seen, and still carry with them.

Then young boys came forward with poppies on sticks, and placed them in a flower planter full of earth.  It reminded me of the moment in the RSC Love’s Labours Lost when the young men of the play appeared in army uniforms, and I had to hold back the lump in my throat.

They were followed by Brownies, carrying their poppies to plant.  Brownies don’t look like Brownies anymore, they wear zipped up tracksuits and scraggy leggings, but they all had loads of badges sewn on, so must be diligent.  But we’d have been sent home if our little brown dresses weren’t impeccably ironed and our socks pulls up sharply. They looked a lot happier than we did and much more comfortable. They smiled into their pigtails as they proudly planted their poppies.

A toddler wailed “I want to go home”, but his brother brought him up to plant a poppy and for a moment he was happy and skipped gurgling, a blonde curly headed angel, immune to the serious crowd. DSCN0497_2

The bugle played again and we lowered our heads in respect for those lost boys, their parents, their lovers and siblings and the lives that would have all been so different if they hadn’t fought, and if they hadn’t died.

Back in the church afterwards we sang Jerusalem and God Save the Queen,  and in spite of myself wanted to cry, for the sadness of it all.

Afterwards there was the chatter, the shaking of hands and the feint wafting spell of roast and mint in the air.  I drifted through it, like a fairy tale witch and wondered at this other way of life, where everything seemed so certain.

Time to think: that is what the residency gives me, and all of it feeds into the writing – even this remembrance day will come out, one way or another.

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