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Why?

Sometimes the most obvious questions - the first principles type - can get overlooked, and this little rambling is an attempt to address one such omission.

I was privileged to be invited to the launch of a new Writers' Group this week, and one of the issues they wanted me to address was the very straightforward - why do I write?

Like many great questions, it's one of those which sounds simple but very much isn't.  It took a fair bit of thought to answer, but this is my approximate response.

Firstly, I suppose I find it a curious question.  It implies some sort of burden, even a chore, and for me writing is quite the opposite.  It started off as, and has always remained, primarily a hobby.  I love writing. Even as a kid I used to delight in making up stories and writing them down. I had many imaginary friends (some say I still do!)

I look forward to writing, to making my characters live, to capturing the world they know, to setting down the latest part of the story I'm working on.  I can't imagine a life without writing now.  It's that much of a delight.

On top of that, there's the ability to capture a thought, a feeling, a moment, an emotion, a situation in words.  You can make a statement and comment on life, positively or not, praise or have a dig, all in words.

It's also a great way of getting revenge on people, albeit in your mind.  When I'm inflicting harm upon a character, it is often a temptation too far not to think about someone you dislike very much!  I suppose it's therapeutic in that way, and far preferable to going out and doing it in real life.

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Modern life

I suppose I could easily start and end this blog with the reflection that modern life is something I've not quite got the hang of, struggle though I may.

However, being me, I can surely squeeze out a few more thoughts to a doubtless delighted and entranced world. Well, maybe!

Anyhow, this blog was prompted by a clever article I read yesterday concerning Facebook.  It claimed, and with impressive accuracy, that you could roughly tell a person's age by the number of friends he or she had.

Younger folk might have thousands, but for those of us in the decade of the 40's the average number of friends is 50 - 100. 

In one way I thought bingo! That's spot on.  I'm almost at a hundred and was - that's WAS feeling quite proud of nearing the milestone.  Until I realised that's only a fraction of the number many others have.

Ah well, at least I've made a start on joining the virtual world.  It was only a couple of years ago I began blogging, so I suppose I should expect gradual progress.  I was doubtful at first about its worth, but curiously (according to the clever people who run this site) my ramblings have become one of the most popular parts of it.

They've even persuaded me to start tweeting too, but that's a whole different story.  Get me to compress my waffle into 140 characters? Fat chance!

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Trains and boats and planes

On a slow (brainspeed) Sunday morning, it can be easier to steal someone else's idea for a title...

But the point of this little ramble was a rumination on transport and what the various modes do to the mind. Or my mind, at least.

I had the pleasure of visiting Teignmouth yesterday, and partook of the wonderful rail journey along the coast - the one where it feels as if you're right on the beach, then cutting through the cliffs of red Devon rock.  It's a stunning trip.

As regular sufferers of my meanderings will know, I always carry a notebook, and it took but a few minutes of the scenery before I started having ideas for bits of a new book, a couple of characters and also some quirks to pop in the upcoming series of talks.

All that inspiration from a view!  Now that's what I call value for money / time.

Anyhow, back to the point of the blog, and the stimulation of the mind the train trip brings to me is unique.  I don't have it when I'm driving or being driven, perhaps because I have to concentrate, or that driving is now such a mundane chore, one of the banes of modern life.

It certainly doesn't happen when I'm in a plane - I'm too busy being scared witless to think of anything apart from how soon we'll be landing and when I can enjoy the safe delights of the flatness of the earth again.

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A time for rhyme

A question has arrived, rather tangential to the writing thing, but I'm going to answer it anyway because it's a subject of which I'm fond.

It's this - do I like poetry, and if so, what?

The answer to part one of the question is yes, and that's probably a good job or this would be one of the shortest blogs I've ever penned.

The answer to part two is a range, but I tend to favour older poetry.  This is going to sound hideously old fashioned, embarrassingly so even, but I like works that are full of rhythm and rhyme. 

My two favourite poets are probably Housman and Betjeman.  Housman because of the way he captures his time, his sense of lament about life (very important for someone as emotionally melodramatic as me), and his wonderful use of language. 

Betjeman I love because of his delight in the countryside - particularly Cornwall - and his observations of people and life. He's also got a lovely joy and mischief in his writing.

I'm a fan of Eliot too, because of the tingling reflectiveness of his work.  I've always had a thing about time - the one unconquerable enemy in my humble view (perhaps I watched Dr Who too much as a kid) - and Eliot is so powerful in his thoughts about that slippery subject.

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A little on libraries..

These days I've relegated my soap box to a dusty and little used corner of the mind, surrounded by fencing, Keep Out signs, and a few mental landmines. 

It may come as a surprise to regular readers of these meanderings, but I do have some self-awareness and know how easily I can launch into a diatribe or eulogy, or just any kind of wordy careering downhill slalom.

However! I do have a little something to say on the subject of libraries - if you'll indulge me - but will keep it brief (as much as ever I do.)

Libraries, in my humble view, are simply fab, as are the folk who run them.  They do wonderful work, but so quietly and modestly that it can easily be overlooked.

Quite aside from the obvious, they can so often be the heart of a community, where many people come to meet.  In fact, I've spoken to some who say without the library they would rarely go out and have somewhere to see a friendly face and enjoy a chat.

And as for the librarians themselves - dedicated, kind professionals who spend their lives serving their communities without fanfare or self promotion.

So here's to libraries and all who work in them, particularly at this difficult time when all the pubic sector is facing a more than challenging future.

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Events and nerves

The season of events is upon us, and I'm very glad to welcome it along. 

I love doing talks about the tvdetective books, for a couple of main reasons. It gives me a great opportunity to visit new places, but it's a particular pleasure for getting to meet readers. They're so very kind and complimentary about my scribblings, which is highly reassuring because many are the days I doubt whether my work is worth troubling the world of publishing.

They also help me learn, by telling me what they like and don't like in books, and I'm grateful for that. I count myself a newcomer to this writing lark, but a mere child in class really, and so am appreciative of any tips for trying to get better at it.

I'm doing an event on Saturday (14th May) in St Austell.  It looks to be a very interesting one, with some fine writers offering hints about how to become an author (should you be so interested in the peculiar profession), plus a bit of waffle from yours truly, and a panel event to round up the day. 

There are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html   I'll also post information about other gigs as we go through the summer.

Finally for this ramble, an answer to a question I'm commonly asked - do I get nervous doing talks about the books?

Yes is the resounding answer!  And curiously more so than being on the television, no matter how many times the number of people may be watching there.

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Space to think

There appears to be some strange interest in where I write the tvdetective books - I've been asked a few times now if I have a study, and if so what it's like.

Go on then, as it's you, I'll talk...

I do have a study, albeit a rather ramshackle version. Regular readers of these ramblings will know I'm not into formality and ceremony, and thus it is with my little thinking and working space.

It's in the attic of the house, with a lovely skylight that provides a fine view over the Exeter cityscape.  There's a little square wooden table - forever cluttered with cuttings, notes and ideas - where I put my laptop, and a comfy padded office chair to rest myself upon.

There are two futons, both very comfortable, which I alternate between as my sitting and thinking positions. One is better for more whacky musings as it looks out of the skylight, the other is more useful for details thinking as it looks towards my stereo system and prevents me wandering into too many flights of fancy - a common Hall problem.

On the floor beside the stereo are lines of that quirk of history known as vinyl records - they date back to my DJing days.  They're both a fond memory and a source of inspiration, because the music that flows from them always sounds better than any CD or one of your modern MP3 things.

Finally, on the wall are some pictures - there's Niamh, my beautiful adopted daughter, a photograph of the young Hall, aged perhaps 5, with Mum and Dad, and a few posters and cards from various gigs and literary festivals.

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Colours

A question has arrived; a simple one, but smart nonetheless. It's this - what is my favourite colour?

I immediately suspect my correspondent has had the dubious pleasure of witnessing my performances on the television.  In which case, they'll quite possibly already think they know, but hey, the answer's rarely so simple (at least not with a Hall ramble), so here we go with an attempted response.

Firstly , I like combinations of colour.  In my humble view, when dressed for work, a woman has many options for expressing personality, or moods which are permissible.  There's the obvious skirt versus trousers issue, a suit, the style of shoes, the option of a dress, and even then so many more colours seem to be available to a man. 

For us chaps, the rules tend to mean a jacket (of some darkish shade) and trousers, plus a decent shirt, and perhaps a tie. 

Well of that lot, it's only a tie which can give you real freedom with colours and patterns, which is why I tend to get a little over excited in the neckwear arena.  Many are the comments I get about my ties, more so than any other area of attire. Being a generally polite chap, I won't repeat them here...

So I hope that explains a little about my thoughts on wardrobe.  However, back to the original question, and my favourite colour?

The simple answer is blue.  The reason - when I joined the BBC, many years ago now, I was put through one of those colour coding suitability things, when an expert advises on which shade is best for you.

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