Much Madness; or, A World Within a World.

Here's a conundrum for all you writers - and readers - out there (keep reading, I'll get to the point eventually): In the 1950's, the psychologist Erving Goffman developed the concept of the Total Institution.  This, he defined as: ‘A place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time together, lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.’ (Goffman, 1961)It was the heyday of the 'mental asylum' and of the boarding school, even the convent.  Care in the community wasn't even embryonic and criminals were far more likely to be incarcerated than paroled. Goffman was talking about actual bricks-and-mortar buildings where people on the inside only had contact with people on the outside through a strict system of gatekeeping.  These places were, then, worlds within worlds; they were enclosed.Now, I'm fast-forwarding through lots of theoretical and philosophical debate (I...
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Note From Nicaragua

It would have felt very exotic to finish my novel in Nicaragua.  I could have written a neat little Foreward or Afterword, signed and dated Pochomill, or San Juan or Granada.  Was it ever going to happen?  Of course not.... too many people to see, deserted beaches to explore, horses and carriages for Simon to 'drive', boat trips to private islands.  Oh, and canopy tours above the Mombachu volcano involving harnesses, helmets and zip wires along tightropes and down vertical drops - I strapped on Simon and off we went!  (Not really, he stayed at home eating ice-cream, counting bugs and hunting dragons.  Honestly).  Ah, yes, another time-consuming activity: staying alert to zap my deadly enemy, the mosquito.  As readers will know, Bangladeshi mozzies adored me and Tanzanian ones got so drunk on me, they couldn't fit back through the netting they had infiltrated.  Well, Nicaraguan ones lined the street, all but waving palm leaves and shouting Hosanna.   But...
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Rounding Up and Counting Down

Two days away from an extended trip to the USA and Nicaragua (far enough away to escape the Scottish summer?) I've spent the week drawing this term's community education classes to a close, and finishing up some editing work.Inevitably then, it's been a week of evaluation, reflection  and reviews.  Tricky as it is to come up with an original, interesting and useful evaluation form, it's often harder for the respondent to pass on his or her views via a standard, often dry, bit of paperwork.  Nevertheless, there are some past* comments from  writers that sit, immoveable, in a little corner of my mind.What better to do on a lazy Friday evening, when I should be packing a suitcase, than share them with you? 'Class is quite good but we have to spend too much time writing''I still can't think of anything to write but at least I can do it grammatically now.''Creative writing?  Seems that there are so many rules about grammar...
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Thoughts Back on Bhola

Recent posts have concentrated more on life and writing here in the UK, but it's time to return to Bhola, especially during a week when thoughts have turned to Bangladesh in general.  Few people will have missed the coverage of the factory building collapsing in Dhaka and the subsequent tragedy; my heart goes out to all of those affected.  It reminds me of so many 'near misses' on my journeys there, events that make a great story in retrospect - because they ended happily:  a speedboat in a tropical storm off St Martin Island; electricity failure in a lift (10 floors up) at the tail end of cyclone Sidr; a tribal sniper in the Rangmati hills; a bus under threat of hijack...So, it's great to look at the most recent pictures from Bhola and see the quiet progress that continues to make a sad or sick child just that bit happier.All...
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Chapter 10: The Alien Plumber

Monday saw the first draft of my novel-in-progress off to my PhD supervisor.  Well, I say 'first draft' but it's a draft that has had many, many incarnations over the last couple of years.  And it wasn't exactly the whole novel, just about two-thirds of it (58 682 words or 161 pages to be precise, but who's counting!) Still,  for probably the first, and hopefully not the last, time in my writing life, I can honestly say I could not have worked any harder and I am pleased with what I've done. Though I do have a sneaking suspicion it is nowhere near 'literary' enough for a PhD... watch this space!Two interesting off-shoots though.  First, Simon's language is clearly developing in too specific a direction.  As well as: 'party biscuit', 'big boy pants' and 'a minute, mummy; I'm busy', he can now say clearly and in context: 'copyright', 'edit' and 'genre'....
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